I found this cute little tree trying to grow in the crevice of an old stump last summer while we were camping in New Hampshire. The stump had been there so long that moss has taken hold of it, and the moss seems to be thriving quite well! Not so the stump.
But the seed of this tiny tree found its way to a crack in the stump that had gathered enough soil over time to become a great rooting spot. We’ll be back next summer, and I’ll be looking to see if it survives!
We have bounded, or perhaps been thrust unwillingly, into a new year. Some would say to leave the past in the past, and keep your eyes on the future! There are brighter days ahead! But has the past only been painful? Has it only been dark and dreary? Did we learn nothing from what we accomplished, conquered, or endured?
I say we take time to look back. Where have we been? That just may be providing a launching pad for where we’re going.
In Deuteronomy 4, Moses urged Israel to obey the commands of God by reminding them of what had happened in the past when they chose disobedience. Not only did he implore them to look back on this awful time in their history to learn from it and never forget it, he told them to pass those very memories on to their children and grandchildren! Read the account of one thing he wanted them to always remember in Numbers 25. I daresay that if I was an eyewitness that day, I’d be trying to wipe it from my mind as much as possible! But remembering the consequences of disobedience would provide additional motivation for choosing obedience instead. There are numerous promises throughout the Bible tied to our obedience to God, but they don’t always seem to be enough to entice us to comply.
Significant memories are not always dark and disturbing, some are wonderful and awe-inspiring. Take the ceremony of Passover, for example. Each year the Israelites were to tell their children of when the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt, sparing their families. At the same time He struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, from Pharaoh all the way down to the livestock. “There was not a single house where someone had not died” (Exodus 12:30). Because of this final plague God sent on the Egyptians, the Israelites were allowed to leave and start their journey to the land God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of course that’s not the end of the story, but it’s a remarkable, important chapter to remember! God is faithful to His promises, He was on their side, and He had a plan for their future.
Each of these examples were not only for individuals to look back to remember, but to share those memories with their children.
My 2017 was a roller coaster. The ups and downs took their toll, and I found myself battling depression. The only way to describe my mind and emotions at that time would be “dark.” The more I focused on the darkness, the deeper it became. I finally realized that my sight was fixed on the wrong thing! I had forgotten that God is faithful, His loving kindnesses never cease, and His compassions never fail (Lamentations 3:22-23). God is my light and my salvation (Psalm 27:1). I was taken back to the first choir song I learned as a child: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” That has become true in my life! The things of this world don’t hold a candle to the brilliance of God. I know that whatever circumstances I may find myself in, good or bad, they don’t compare to the glory He will reveal to us later (Romans 8:18). Life is so much greater than what this physical world has to offer! I can now live in hope and joy, keeping my eyes on the author and finisher of my faith. That is what I take with me into 2018, carried from 2017. Without the dark of the storm, the light of day would not have seemed so bright, and it may not have caught my attention!
So I say, look back! Good or bad, what happened in 2017? If you know, what were the causes and effects of those events? Most importantly, what did you learn from them? How can they shape your life choices in 2018? Take the time to consider where you’ve been, and the circumstances you have experienced. How has God shown Himself to you through them, or perhaps in spite of them? Take that with you as you step into your future!
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)