Learn from the past. Live in the present. Look to the future.
I spend a lot of time (pun intended) thinking about what I’m thinking about and how I’m thinking about it. I feel like a big source of getting off-track in our minds is when we mix up the above phrases. That’s especially true when we put “live in” with anything but “the present.” It’s at least emotionally – if not even clinically – unhealthy.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is a common quote used to persuade people to learn from the past. Anyone who has ever known someone to die can probably remember how easy it can be to want to live in the past, pining for a time when that person was still alive, when life was as it should be. The same goes for any “loss” of another person, whether by death, divorce or otherwise. But if you’re living in the past, you’re not living in the present. And if you’re living in the past, you’re not learning from the past. I have really felt God’s presence in the lessons that can be learned from our history, both as individuals and as a group. We can also learn from other people’s histories, which is why I’m always harping on the importance of sharing our stories with anyone who will listen and also being people who are always willing to listen.
What’s hard about living in the present is that today is so short. By the time yesterday is more than barely gone, tomorrow is nearly here. “God again set a certain day, calling it ‘Today’.” (Hebrews 4:7) God found so much importance in the here and now that He gave it a specific name. Every day, we wake up to a new creation of God’s: today. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) Are we doing that, or are we too sad that yesterday is gone or too desperate for tomorrow to be here? Every second that goes by is another opportunity for us. God gave us that second – that opportunity – out of His abundant love. How can we make the most of it?
That doesn’t mean we totally disregard the future. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28) We have to consider where the Lord is leading us and how to take those lessons from the past and the events of the present and apply them to the future. If we don’t, it’s all for naught and we’ve not grown. The first chapter of the book of James implores us to learn. The reason we can have joy in our trials and sufferings is because of the atmosphere it provides for growth and improvement to make us the people we need to be for tomorrow. That’s also why he tells us not to be the person who looks in the mirror and forgets what he or she looks like.
I would love to know: what happened in your past that you can learn from in your present in order to prepare for your future?