A Facebook ‘memory’ showed up on my news feed from 8 years ago, pictures of a summer vacation in Florida that did not go so well. Looking at them I felt a flood of regret. I wondered what would I have done differently had I known it was the last summer trip that Bev and I would enjoy before her cancer arrived? Do you ever slip into that place of wishing for a ‘do-over’ for past decisions, thinking about words said or perhaps that you wish you would have said? Are you paralyzed in the present by ‘yesterday?’
Allowing regret to own us will throw a strong chain around us holding us back today’s opportunities.
We will certainly miss out on this moment if we are trying to relive yesterday – whether to fix it or to enjoy it again.
We can learn much about looking back from the experience of the Israelis who were called out of Egypt to the Promised Land. In spite of many experiences of both the faithfulness and power of God, they missed the purpose of God because they allowed regret to take control.
They remembered Egypt, but inaccurately. “The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:4-6, NIV) God was feeding them everyday, miraculously, with perfect food, manna. They were full and fed but not happy. Why? They forgot the slavery and only remembered the food. The memory of their dinner table was without context. Perhaps there was greater variety in their diet, but their sons and daughter were without hope, enslaved and consigned to poverty! They seemed to forget that important detail of their past lives.
Memory is selective and the regret we feel is probably without context, as well. “So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did.” (Hebrews 3:7-9, NIV)
We do not have to erase the past. Memory is important. Celebrating those loved, special days, shared accomplishments, and so much more, enriches our lives. A prime example is the celebration of Communion, remembering the Cross, experiencing the mystery of Christ in us. We also learn from the past when we recall history’s lessons. But, yesterday’s gone! Celebrate the wins. Forgive the wrongs. Learn from the mistakes. Then, LIVE today.
The word from the Word is a familiar passage, words of Paul who had done some regrettable things in the past. There were also some high moments of spiritual experience in his life. Note what he teaches us about the PRESENT. “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.“ (Philippians 3:12-14, NLT)
“We have this moment to hold in our hands,
And to touch as it slips through our fingers like sand,
Yesterday’s gone, and tomorrow may never come,
But we have this moment today!” – Wm. Gaither, 1975