“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10).
The Judds sang, “Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days.” There is a “Good Old Days” magazine. There are “Good Old Days” bars and “Good Old Days” antique shops. Not long ago there was a trend in fashion – the “retro” look – echoing the styles of bygone days and even digging old clothes out of the attic and wearing them proudly.
Maybe Dolly Parton came closer to the truth about “The Good Old Days” way back in 1969 when she recalled the hard times her family had when she was growing up in the mountains of east Tennessee.
“No amount of money could buy from me
The memories that I have of then
No amount of money could pay me
To go back and live through it again”
Why do we look longingly at the past and think, “If only we could bring back the good old days?” In a Psychology Today blog article the following explanation is given;
“Thinking about the good old days triggers neurochemicals that make you feel good. You might reach the conclusion that life was better in the past. But if you had actually lived in the past, you would not have liked it.”
So there you have it! Its all about brain chemistry! Really? I don’t know that much about neurochemicals, but I sincerely doubt that is the full explanation for nostalgic longings for the good old days. I know that an imbalance of chemicals in the brain can cause a number of different mental and emotional illnesses, but nostalgia?
When I was growing up hardly anyone had indoor plumbing. Most people cooked on wood burning ranges. No one had air conditioned houses and certainly not air conditioned automobiles. My father scrabbled out a meager living on a hilly 44 acre farm. Oh, we ate well. With a large garden my mother canned enough food to last through the winter. We butchered a couple of hogs in the fall and cured the hams and bacon. We had two cows for milk and butter and several hens for eggs. After the hens “set” and hatched off a brood we would have lots of fried chicken after they got to be “fryin’ size.” My father sometimes supplemented our meat needs by hunting squirrels, rabbits and an occasional ‘possum. But for the most part, we subsisted on ‘taters, pinto beans and cornbread.
Go back to it? Not on your life! There are lots of good memories, but I wouldn’t want to go back. Call me soft, call me lazy – or call me crazy – as simple as life was then, I don’t want to return to it.
Certainly there were aspects of the past that without doubt better than the present. In the rural area where we lived we didn’t worry about drugs and violence. When I was growing up, no one locked their doors when away from home because when they left home their knew they could trust their neighbors. Now we don’t even know who our neighbors are!
We can’t live in the past. The past…well, its past. Its over. It is only a memory. What has been has been and will never be again. As much as we might like to go back, there is no way to do that. There is no more a way to go back to the past than there is a way to live in the future. All we are given is today. Correction: all we are given is this moment.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” (James 4:13-17).
Like life itself, this moment is a gift from God. We ought to consider it and whatever time He may allow us in the future as precious gifts, not to be kept for ourselves to spend in idle daydreaming about the past, but in useful activities. Put off doing until tomorrow something that really needs to be done and we may never again have the opportunity to do it.
“For he says,
“In a favorable time I listened to you,
and in a day of salvation I have helped you.”
Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Just as it is foolish to fiddle away our time wishing for what once was and can never be again, it is useless to bemoan the woes of the present and do nothing about them. As much as we might dislike many of the things that come with the present, we are stuck with it – unless we can do something about it. If we can, we should be doing it. Remember that we, as the spiritual descendants of Abraham, are to be through Jesus a blessing to the world. We can only do that by fully living and serving in the present.