The Way it Was
We can all probably remember “the way it was.” The old farmer remembers when the plow was pulled by a team of horses named Jed and Red. And he remembers, “those were the good old days.” A pilot remembers barn storming and cranking the aircraft by manually spinning the propeller. And he remembers, “those were the good old days.” The old hunter remembers when the woods and the fields were so full of game that coming home empty-handed was unheard of. And he remembers, “those were the good old days.” A husband remembers when he could go grocery shopping with his wife, buy all a grocery cart could hold and pay only twenty dollars. And he remembers, “those were the good old days.” A church member remembers when things used to be different. There were more people, more programs, more activities, more everything. And he remembers, “those were the good old days.”
Remembering is wonderful. The past is a beacon in our lives, especially if the present is not all that great. But, the same old farmer that remembers the good old days plowing behind a team of horses now does his work with a tractor or two. They may have been the good old days, but who wants to go back? The good old days and the good old ways were also full of back-breaking work. Who wants to trade?
Our reflections on the past are helpful to mark where we have been, but it is damaging to want to go back. Let’s face it. Most of us would not go back, even if we could. What we have here and now may not be so great, but for most of us it is better than it has ever been.
There is danger in a church that wants to step back into the past. It is almost an indictment against God. If we really believe that He is with us and is guiding us, to step back into the past is like saying to God, “No thank you. We do not like the direction you are going.” It would be like Israel when they wanted to go back to Egypt to their leaks and onions. They were willing to trade something ahead that was exciting for something behind that was secure. It is interesting that God did not allow it.
The past is our teacher. Instead of longing for the past, why not learn from it? What does it teach us? Did I put all my eggs in one basket, only to have them crushed when the basket tipped over? If I had it to do all over again, would I really go back? Didn’t the past teach me that all things change? Nothing stays the same!
If we we’re honest we would realize that what we long for in the past are only the positive things. When we make statements like, “I wish it were like it used to be,” we mean, “I wish all the positive things we used to have were still here.”
If we really look back to those positives and measure them against the present what do you think we will find? A church, for instance, that was blowing and going a few years ago now finds itself settled in mediocrity. Who quit? Who slowed down? Who lost their enthusiasm? Is it possible to look in the mirror and find the point of breakdown?
Before we want too much from the past, let’s define what it is that we want. Once defined, each member must make a diligent effort to re-equip himself, remotivate and rededicate himself before expecting anyone else to do something. Use the past, as a foundation on which to build the future.