I write this Perspectives column from the table of my late father’s house. About four months ago, my grandmother and my father, who both fearlessly loved the Lord, went to heaven suddenly the …
I write this Perspectives column from the table of my late father’s house. About four months ago, my grandmother and my father, who both fearlessly loved the Lord, went to heaven suddenly the same week. We were in town to do the funeral for my grandmother, when my father suddenly was unable to breathe and passed away due to a mass in his lungs.
So, while many would find this to be a terrible week, I found it to be a week of grace, because even though death came twice that week, the Lord gave my family an amazing chance to love and say goodbye to both of them. I was happy to have had the last day with my father surrounded by family.
Yet, just as I praise God for this last day with my father, I also praise God for my father’s Christian faith that he lovingly brought into the lives of my sisters and me. Because of the father that he was, I am the man I am today. Yet, I am here at his house to help my mother begin the long process of going through my father’s belongings. For anyone who has ever journeyed through this process, you understand that it isn’t only difficult, it is also very pleasant. Pleasant because you get a chance to remember the person that you loved so dearly. Pleasant because you feel reminded of the life that they lived. Pleasant because you get a chance to remember the person that you cherished.
Needless to say, this was a week filled with memory. Yet as this week progressed, I am reminded of the blessings and dangers of memory. Blessings because you get a chance to remember where you have come from, but dangerous if you let your past keep you from going on to what is next — a danger that sometimes humans all too often find themselves unknowingly participating in; being so nostalgic for what once was that you miss what is now to come.
Don’t get me wrong, memories are great and must be a part of the journey because often in order to know where you are going you must know where you came from. I think of Israel and when God came to them to remind them of their rich history. But in the same breath of conversation, he told them to not hold onto the past because it was stopping them from what he was about to do.
Isaiah 43: 16-21, “This is what the Lord says — he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”
This passage is God coming to Israel to remind them that he is the God of both the yesterday miracle and the tomorrow miracle. But what he did in the yesterday miracle does not have to be the way he does the miracle today. In the past, he separated the water and pulled them back, but in the future, he is going to flood the waters and hydrate the land. God says this to Israel because he didn’t want the blessing of the yesterday miracle stopping them from participating in the miracle of tomorrow.
God brings us this word because this is what humans do: We love the past so much that we don’t want to leave the glory days of yesterday. But what if tomorrow is your next glory day, but you’ve missed it because you are too strongly holding onto yesterday? He brought the past up to them in this text, but only to use it to press them on into tomorrow.
This is what my father has meant to me this difficult week. To be grateful for what I had with my father, but to use his memory as fuel to press me forward into tomorrow. To fuel me to be a better man. To fuel me to leave a Christian legacy like this to my children and to press me on in the race toward heaven.
Friends of Powell, let’s use yesterday’s memory to press us on to a brighter tomorrow. Let us be grateful for what once was, but not let it stop us from what is next. Let it only serve as a reminder that God is the God of yesterday and today and let us not forget that he most certainly is the God of tomorrow.
(Matt Tygart is pastor of Harvest Community Nazarene.)