I’ve thought much about looking today since my last blog… read here. I am not sure we can look at all in front of us today without a looking back.
We would never get very far driving down the highway if we didn’t occasionally take a glance in the rear view mirror. Tom says, “I want to see if there’s a cop back there!” Observing what is behind us lets us know if it’s safe to change directions, when to make a change, or to proceed in the same way. Lessons are learned as we look in the past.
Some say… don’t look back; you’re not going that way. But looking back, reflecting on positive memories is a good thing. Perhaps it is helpful, to reflect on the negatives, too— if we don’t stay there long. Remembering gives pause to consider life in the Now. We need to make time for looking back…
Sometimes “your memories” show up on today’s Face Book… a year ago ‘today’, five years. Recently one surfaced on my page from 11 years ago. What do you do when you see a memory? Smile… cry?
I cried two weeks ago as I read a friend’s text. She shared the latest results from her husband’s MRI; she was bringing him home for the time he had left. I love this sweet couple—Tom and I married them! The laughter, the joys, the love shared. What a beautiful gift to look back into the wonders of life.
She had posted on Face Book this September 10 a repost of that same date in 2011 with the words to all of us: A sweet reminder to never take those simple moments for granted. Her post eleven years ago on September 10 … A beautiful cool morning on the porch with a cup of coffee, a blanket, and my sweet husband. So blessed!
At his celebration of life service this week, smiling with tears, “I am so full of gratitude for our years together.” She is looking back and will always look back on sweet memories.
Looking back on this journey, even in regret, enables us to focus in reality for the tomorrows. Pausing to reflect can strengthen trust for today as we remember how we overcame difficult experiences. A friend shared these words with me when I was overwhelmed with sadness in leaving Vienna. “Barb, don’t cry because you’re leaving; be thankful… smile because you came.” (Proverb attributed as an Indian proverb, a Spanish one and Dr. Seuss.)
When I look back, I see faces… from every church we have loved, from every place, from many countries… in Vienna, Austria, in Copenhagen, Denmark. And I shout… “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy…” Philippians 1:3 This map is a daily reminder of beautiful people in our lives; each dark pin represents the country of someone we love. I pass it a hundred times a day, smiling in thankfulness. Looking back can be healthy when we remember the wonders. “Remember the wonders He has done.”(Psalm 105:5) “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you have planned for us no one can recount to you… there are so—o—oo many…” Psalm 40:5. I am thankful for the wonders… past ones, and those in the Now.
Forward living is the goal, but without a glance backwards every now and then, would we question which direction to take? Of course, we all have regrets, things we did, or should have done or didn’t do. Looking back allows gratitude in remembering the forgiveness we have been given for mistakes.
Looking backwards gives direction for today’s journey. Backward views of the wonders bring peace. Questions, mistakes, dreams shattered bring tears. Both are necessary to understand which direction to go. We find contentment in looking backwards at the beautiful scenes in the rear view mirror. We gain strength as we accept the broken pieces in the mirror, stronger with each lesson. I often struggle these days looking too long at the broken pieces in family as I ponder the ways and whys of looking back.
“You live life looking forward. You understand life looking backward.” – Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher’s comment on life.
We’ve all heard that elephants have excellent memory; this is because of their large brains… very large brains. Their highly developed hippocampus and cerebral cortex give them exceptional recall power, enabling them to survive in the wilderness. And to live long. Their episodic memory makes it possible for them to recall what happened during an event years before. Then, they are prepared for the Now. With all that amazing memory load, they have been known to remember kindnesses or mistreatment from people or other elephants for decades.
I don’t want to be like an old elephant; I only want to remember the goodness of others, the kindness and forgiveness given me. As I glance backwards in gratitude for the wonders, I hear a whisper “… do not dwell (make your home) in the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43: 18
Something beautiful, something new is discovered when… looking back.
Good morning dear Barb, I’ve just read this, and have a strange feeling, overwhelmed may be, i don’t know. I say very nicely said. You are right, even if we focused on the “future”, it will remain mystery. No guarantee even in the “now”. But the “back” with its everything is our life.
When are you visiting Vienna again? if you are planning, I invite you to stay in my home. I have a spare room and will rejoice in both of your company.
Love you, Mary