What were you doing one year ago today?
This has been one of the consistent marketing taglines that the app Timehop has used to reel people in. The app is super awesome. Every day you can check into the app and see all that you’ve posted on social media on that day in years past, whether that was on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
In recent months however, I have seen how dangerous of an app this can be for me personally (I’m not using this blog post to boycott the app, say that it’s sinful for followers of Christ to use, or anything disproportionately crazy like that). One of my biggest struggles is looking backwards. I don’t blame myself for that, it’s easy to do. It’s easy and natural for me (as well as many others I’m sure) to think about the what used to be, and how life was different back in the day. Nostalgia distorts. Nostalgia is not regret. Nostalgia focuses on the good that used to be and glosses over the difficult. It’s like looking at the past with rose-colored glasses on.
I have wrestled with a sin that I hadn’t been able to put into words but knew was present in my life. This struggle was put to words by the author Jen Wilkin. Jamie and I are reading through her book None Like Him, and as we read through a chapter of it this past Saturday morning, Jen spoke on the idea of ‘sinful nostalgia’:
Sinful nostalgia causes us to idolize a time when life was “better” or “simpler,” resulting in perpetual discontentment with our present circumstance. We may long for a time before bad news of some kind arrived, for a time when our health was better, when our kids were still young, or when a loved one was still alive. Life’s changing seasons can cause a natural longing for the way things used to be, and though it is not necessarily sinful, it can become so. We are allowed to grieve the loss of happy seasons, but we are not allowed to resent their loss. There is a difference between missing the past and coveting the past. The antidote for covetousness is always gratitude: We can combat a sinful love of the past by counting the gifts we have been given in the present.
Wow. As I was reading this section aloud to Jamie on Saturday, I had to stop at the end of this paragraph. This struggle I’ve battled in my heart, especially with post-graduation blues, was called into the light. It’s easy for me to allow my acceptable grief to turn into sinful covetousness of the past.
It’s laughable how I set myself up for falling into this sinful covetousness. For close to a month, the first thing I would do in the morning when I woke up would be to lay in bed and check my Timehop. I would scroll through posts and pictures of previous years, and immediately my current state would feel insignificant or less than ideal. Immediately my heart would yearn for the ‘better’ time in my life, disregarding all the gifts that God has granted to me daily in the present. As far as the rose-colored glasses are concerned, Timehop does nostalgia’s job for it. Considering I never post on social media about anything negative, all I see from past years is the good.
Not to mention the fact that I might as well be the Israelites in the book of Exodus. God had delivered them from slavery and they responded by grumbling and proclaiming that they’d rather be back in slavery. God has delivered me from ‘slavery’ to different idols and difficult circumstances, and when I long sinfully for the past, that’s me wanting to assert myself right back into the slavery He has rescued me from.
Pay careful attention, then, to how you live – not as unwise people but as wise – making the most of the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16
The days we have are numbered. They are passing. We are called by God to live wisely in our days, making much of His Name through all that we say and do. Yet I waste my days when I’m living in an attitude of sinful nostalgia.
Jen has it right when she says that the greatest way to combat this is via gratitude and thankfulness. On the extremely rare occasion, I will begin my day by writing in my journal ten things from the previous day that I’m thankful for. This is a wonderful way to begin my day, and it leaves me in awe of God’s generosity as I consider and meditate upon the fact that I deserve absolutely none of the gifts that God so generously pours into my life.
Is everything in my life just the way I want it? By no means (and that is absolutely a good thing). But everything in my life is exactly the way it is for a reason, as God uses each and every day of my existence to bring about my good and His glory.
Don’t fall into the Timehop trap (again, disclaimer: I’m not saying that Timehop is evil or wrong. When used rightly, it can be a wonderful way to reflect on God’s goodness) of wanting the past.
Be grateful for God’s gifts in the present.
In His Name,
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