We all have those memories of the “good old days” don’t we? I know I do. From time to time, a memory from my childhood will flash across my mind evoking emotions and thoughts of freedom and comfort. I think that’s completely human too. It’s almost like a survival mechanism in a way isn’t it? When times seem uncertain, and uncomfortable, in an effort to soothe or solve, our brain offers up what it knows we can survive, and the past would certainly qualify as that.
So why does this verse in Ecclesiastes instruct us to not long for those times of comfort? Perhaps because in our crisis, when we look back, we’re looking to something that no longer exists as an option. We’re attaching ourselves to something no longer relavant to the “now”. And isn’t the timeline that we’re on, God-given and undoubtedly purposeful to our growth? When problems or fear arise and we look to times gone by, are we not seeking, and in that effort, worshipping the feeling one gets with those memories, instead of placing our trust in the promised love and care of our Creator? The “past” would then fulfill the definition of an idol.
So what if we apply this concept to good old America? Lately, I’ve seen email forwards, videos, and heard songs that lament of an America gone by. Is this a just and right cry? Are certain practices of business and government corrupt? Sure. Were there not corrupt businesses and government practices 50 years ago? Was it safer to let your kids play out in the streets a few decades back? Sure. But would the neighbors talk bad about you if you let your kid play with a kid of a different skin color? Do you see where this idea goes? With every decade or era you long for as an individual, an American, or even as a Christian, the marks of humanity are there and not all of them are pretty.
At every turn in history, the present time included, humans have found themselves dealing with terrible mistakes, and ugly hate on both a personal and global scale. But with that, comes the balance of our incredible resolve, the beauty of the art we create to describe it all, and the faith and love that is shown to one another, even if that love isn’t as discernable as we’d like.
Two things. One, is another quote from Ecclesiastes (2:15), “What is happening now has happened before, and what will happen in the future has happened before, because God makes the same things happen over and over again.” And lastly, I believe that we are to live with a hope, and an optimism, based on an eternal perspective that recognizes that with every instance of chaos, room for redemption instantly appears, and isn’t that the story of everyone of us?