The Pastor’s Perspective
The Past and The Future
Traditionally the month of January is a time to look back at the past and make new commitments for the future. It’s a time to look over our shoulder at what has happened to us and squint ahead at what we hope the future will bring.
Many people are hesitant about looking back because of painful experiences. There are people whose life experiences are such that they feel something dangerous and hurtful is lurking around, just waiting for an opportunity to come back to the surface. It is axiomatic that being preoccupied with the past may endanger one’s future. The clever baseball player Satchel Paige gave us the much-quoted quip: “Don’t look back; something might be gaining on you!” There is some truth to the “Satchel Paige Philosophy,” but it’s not the whole truth. It should be heard with one ear. Inattention to the past can cause us to repeat old mistakes that present themselves in new forms.
It’s easy to speak authoritatively about the past because it is the one aspect of life about which we have 20/20 vision. Not so with the future. Even the people who are the best trained in the science of predicting the future are often wrong. There are too many variables and too much that is unexpected to allow for reliable accuracy. It is like weather forecasting. Patrick Young said, “The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often to ignore and wrong too often to rely on it.” Even using our best information and judgment about life is like that – the only sure thing about the future is that it will surprise even the most discerning.
The book of Ecclesiastes puts it more succinctly – “God has made everything to suit its time; moreover, God has given us a sense of time past and future, but we cannot see what God is doing from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 9 – 11).
Whatever else this may mean, it reminds us that we are pilgrims, ignorant of how it all began and blind to how it will all end. Our real beacon of faith is in the transcendent God by whose hand we came into the world unaided by any effort of our own – and we are dependent upon the same God for a safe exit. So…..we draw on the past for wisdom, trust God for what we cannot see, and play the hand we are dealt as best we can, knowing that God was there before it all began, and He will be there when it all comes to an end.
I pray that you have a blessed New Year!