by Phil Tuttle
“There’s a reason a car’s windshield is way bigger than its rear view mirror.”
That’s how my Dad used to make the point that we ought to spend much more time looking forward than backward. The Apostle Paul shared the same wisdom centuries earlier in Philippians 3:13-14:
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
It sounds so easy when we read it in the Bible, but it’s way more difficult to think that way in real life.
In fact, it seems to me there’s an epidemic sweeping our country right now of people getting stuck in the past. The Center for Disease Control here in Atlanta hasn’t officially sounded the alarm yet, but spending a few minutes reading your Facebook News Feed will confirm the reality of just how many people are spending huge amounts of time and emotional energy wishing for the good old days.
For some, it’s the ever-accelerating rate of technological change that can make anyone over 40 feel obsolete. For others, it’s our constantly shifting culture, complete with new definitions of family and marriage. Still others panic at the thought of restructuring our tax code or healthcare system.
While these issues and the tensions they create are real, the answer isn’t to worship the past. One of our instructors, Mark Wheeler, titled a recent blog “The Idolatry of Nostalgia” and that phrase has burrowed its way into my brain. I’ve had to acknowledge my growing tendency to long for how things used to be–even if it requires me to rewrite history by remembering only what was good about the past.
In the midst of all this New Year’s reflection, I’ve been studying Genesis 37-50 as part of my prep work for a new book and DVD small group series on the life of Joseph. If there’s ever been anyone who could have ridden down the road of life gazing in the rear view mirror, it was Joseph.
Yet Scripture records no such obsession with the past. Instead of trying to right the wrongs of his brothers’ betrayal, or Mrs. Potiphar’s false accusation, or his unjust imprisonment, Joseph seems to have leaned into the future. He constantly embraced each new opportunity as God’s calling for his life.
Compared to the insanity of Joseph’s life, most of our situations don’t seem so out of control after all. And so, inspired by his example, I’ve decided to waste less time this year reminiscing in my rearview mirror, and invest more time embracing the God-ordained future I see through my windshield.
What about you? How about joining me in pursuit of the great new days that God has promised will far surpass even the good old days? Who knows, it may even trigger some Leave It to Beaver flashbacks of a simpler time when fathers routinely uttered words of wisdom like, “There’s a reason a car’s windshield is way bigger than its rear view mirror.”
Phil Tuttle is the President of Walk Thru the Bible International