My crazy, ridiculous, ginger daughter, Jayne had her 4th birthday yesterday.
As I was laying in her bed singing her a song or two to calm her wired little minion self down after a day of excessive “Jayne Love,” she asked me if it can be her birthday again tomorrow.
I remember wanting that. Can EVERY DAY be my birthday?
Can EVERY DAY be the first day of school?
Can EVERY MOMENT be like that first kiss?
Can’t we just do this again tomorrow?
We all start out our lives blissfully unaware of all the ugliness that exists in our world. Our parents are superheroes. All adults are there to keep us safe. Everyone we meet is a potential friend. Life is about how much fun we can fit in between wake-up and bed-time.
Until it isn’t.
Do you remember when your blissful innocence collided with the hard truth of reality? Some people just call it growing up . . . but, in that moment, I think every one of us has this thought, “If only we could go back to how it was before.”
Before that person failed me. Before I made that costly mistake. Before I got hurt. Before they walked away. Before I walked away. . . .
How uncomplicated the innocence was. How uncomplicated the familiar was.
Can’t we just go back?
Now that I have lived a few decades and gathered some colorful experiences, there are parts of “back” you couldn’t pay me enough money to want to go back to.
But the innocence . . . the peacefulness of familiarity and predictability . . . that is attractive.
Watching Jayne, I realize that this is the time in her life she will look back on one day and say, “It was less complicated then.” (Which is hilarious, because our life has never been more complicated than it is at this moment.)
She will look back, but I don’t want her to get stuck there. Because when we get stuck looking back, we stop moving.
This is growing: taking the next step.
Growth requires forward progress.
Forward progress is hindered when we get stuck looking back.
When I read the stories found in scripture, I am amazed at how often people are stuck looking back.
There is a rich ruler who is asked by Jesus to give up everything to follow Him, but when he looks at all he has acquired, he can’t.
Jesus’s friend and disciple, Peter, gets out of a boat to physically walk on water with Jesus, but he remembers his fear – he remembers that yesterday, this would have been impossible. He sinks.
There is a woman in the early stories of the Bible who has no name except Lot’s wife. Lot, his wife and his daughters are led to leave a city on the verge of destruction. That city happened to be their home. They had friends there. The daughters were engaged to be married. Everything they had ever known was about to be destroyed, and they were faced with the decision to leave and survive it or to stay.
That is complicated. I picture Lot’s wife saying, “can’t we go back to yesterday when everything I know and love wasn’t about to be destroyed?”
So, she leaves with her husband. But, on the way, the pull to belong BACK THERE was too strong for this woman. She looked back. She looked back and she was destroyed along with all she wanted to go back to.
Growth is taking the next step forward. If we stop growing, we die. There is no back. It’s gone already. And, the things we desire about what is “back there” are only a small taste of the peace and hope offered in the Gospel.
The whole story of Jesus is about the God who created us putting on a body so he could grab our hand and lead us forward.
Forward into the promises of new life and a new name.
Forward into what is unfamiliar, maybe . . . but in my experience, everything that is familiar eventually becomes spoiled – it eventually dies.
And, JESUS BEAT DEATH. He pushed through even the grave and walked forward into resurrection. Forward. Tomorrow. Life.
The hope of the Gospel is tomorrow, not yesterday. The Creator-Redeemer is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow . . . but tomorrow is where he is leading us.
Jesus rescued me out of my yesterday, faithfully draws me through today and is leading me into tomorrow – so, I’m hanging on and not looking back.
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14