Sometimes, all we want is for time to do the unheard-of and move backwards. Sometimes all we want is for what was to come back.
Yet time moves forward, and as it marches on, it leaves behind a trail of outgrown friendships, forgotten favorite spots, morphed relationships and disappointed dreams. True, some of us look back at the past and are happy that we have escaped. But for many others, the past is something we view through “rosy spectacles,” as the saying goes.
I have moved several times. I’m blessed to be able to return to some of the places I used to live. Yet when I return, everything is different. My joy is quickly mixed with confusion and even sorrow, as I encounter reminders that things “aren’t what they used to be.” My friends have moved on in life. They have changed, understandably. And inevitably, I have to come back to my current home, which means my friends and I have to say goodbye. Time has taken people away from me.
Time doesn’t just change other people, it changes us. It changes our ability to achieve what we thought was possible. It can disillusion us. It can steal our health, our wealth, and (though this one is quite obvious), our years.
At the end of the day, what does the ravage of time really mean in our daily lives, in a flesh and blood example? It means I can never go back to the days when I was young and all of my friends lived in the same town where I lived. I didn’t know what death was. I barely knew what pain was. I woke up every morning with all of my family in the same house, and I never worried about whether or not my parents, my siblings and I would be “okay”. The world was peaceful and I was blissfully sheltered. But time has taken many of those things away. I know what pain is (I live with it every day). I worry about my family and whether or not they’ll always have “enough”. My friends have moved (as I have). Even when I moved back to my childhood home, I soon realized that moving back doesn’t mean that the effects of time get to be erased. That sheltered life is gone forever. That fact doesn’t sit well with me.
Yes, if I were to put it into a childlike sentence – even demand – this is what I would say, mincing no words, “I want my past back.” Would you say that too? And yet…and yet is that something we really want? Do we really want to end up living in the past again? Are there any things we have in the present that we would miss? I know that when I was younger I spent all that time wanting to be at the point of life where I am now. If I literally went back to being my younger self, would I not be trading one form of discontentment for another form of discontentment? These questions make me think of the old proverb, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Do these questions sound reasonable? Do you think that perhaps the proverb is true, and that if we could really go back in time we would turn out to not be as happy as in the moment it feels like we would be?
Perhaps you push such logic aside as paltry, as I know that in many instances I would be inclined to do. In various seasons my response would have persisted in being, “I don’t care about fences and green grass; my past was the best part of my life, and everything I have now stinks in comparison. I’m throbbing with hurt, and this is just not how life is meant to be. Give me my past back, if there’s any way possible.” (And yes, I know that unless someone invents time traveling, the idea of literally traveling back to the past is hypothetical.)
If you feel this way, I must pull on the deepest resources I have ever found in order to offer you something helpful. When I realized I was likely going to spend the rest of my life in physical pain, unable to pursue a potential career that I adored, I felt like all the good times of my life had ended. I spent a lot of time trying to understand how anyone could keep on living when the best part of their life appeared to be over. Eventually I saw the twinkling of an answer shining like the glimmer of a night-light up ahead.
Let me tell you about the simple hope of “something more” that this light disclosed to me. At the end of my life, I firmly believe I will get to go to a place called heaven. It is a perfect place, where I won’t have any pain; there will be no disabilities and no regrets. I will get to behold the very face of the God who loves me. I look forward to it so much! The thought of heaven gives me hope as I go on living in a life that, it is true, might get better (who knows what medical treatments may be invented, or what other surprises may occur). Yet if my life remains hard, heaven still gives me the same hope. I can still be comforted by that hope even if this present life never becomes as good as my past was.
There’s plenty more that could be said on this topic concerning how to handle losing the past (maybe another post will have to round this one off sometime). However, for the moment please do refer to the about section to see more on the topic of heaven, if you so desire. And please do not give in to the despair that I know is hard to face when we are coping with sadness.