Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Looking back

But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt (Gen 19:26). 
Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Lk 9:62).

Sometimes looking back reflects worldly attachment. But sometimes looking back is a way to look ahead. Looking back to take stock. To sift and sort. To say good-bye. In that sense, looking back is preparatory for looking ahead. 

When atheists write memoirs, there's nostalgia tinged with regret. They think this life is all there is, so they generally cling to life. Writing a memoir, they turn around–facing the past, and gazing at their vanished youth. Their best days are behind them. Fewer days ahead, and the remaining days cannot recapture the zest of youth. It really is downhill. They yearn to be young again. To revisit their past. 

Christians can wax nostalgic, too, but at best, this life is a mixed bag, and better things lie ahead. We can let go. 

There's a sense in which a Christian might cling to the past if the past was better and the present is worse while the best (the world to come) remains out of reach. Sometimes we're stalled a point in life where we can't go back and we can't go forward. 

But that's just a temporary stopgap, like clinging to a lifeline until somebody pulls you back over the cliff. Then you're happy to let go of the lifeline. It served its purpose.  


  1. I just read Methuselah's Children by Heinlein and I'm reminded of this passage.
    Be warned, SPOILERS ALTERT!!! In the story long living individuals are being persecuted by the short living. One of the leaders of the short living having realized the other group really have no secret to their longevity other than genetics and selective breeding (as they've been saying), he works to help save them.
    The leader says:
    "Nor would I consider it a solution even if it would! The people-even my trusted assistants-are clinging to their belief in a fountain of youth because the only alternative is too bitter to think about. Do you know what it would mean to them? For them to believe the bald truth?"
    "Go on."
    "Death has been tolerable to me only because Death has been the Great Democrat, treating all alike. But now Death plays favorites. Zaccur Barstow, can you understand the bitter, bitter jealousy of the ordinary man of-oh, say 'fifty'- who looks on one of your sort? Fifty years . . . twenty of them he is a child, he is well past thirty before he is skilled in his profession. He is forty before he is established and respected. For not more than the last ten years of his fifty he has really amounted to something."
    Ford learned forward in the screen and spoke with sober emphasis: "And now, when he has reached his goal, what is his prize? His eyes are failing him, his bright young strength is gone, his heart and wind are 'not what they used to be.' He is not senile yet . . . but he feels the chill of the first frost. He knows what is in store for him. He knows-he knows!
    "But it was inevitable and each man learned to be resigned to it.
    "Now you come along," Ford went on bitterly. "You shame him in his weakness, you humble him before his children. He dares not plan for the future; you blithely undertake plans that will not mature for fifty years-for a hundred. No matter what success he has achieved, what excellence he has attained, you will catch up with him, pass him-outlive him. In his weakness you are kind to him.
    "Is it any wonder that he hates you?"
    Barstow raised his head wearily. "Do you hate me, Slayton Ford?"
    "No. No, I cannot afford to hate anyone. But I can tell you this," Ford added suddenly, "had there been a secret, I would have it out of you if I had to tear you to pieces!"

    1. That was the end of the quote. I'm also reminded of how some atheists have been honest enough to admit that they envy the religious because on their death-beds they believe that that's not the end. Whereas atheists like themselves are convinced it really is the end. As the saying goes, it's the "end of the line" [and time to get off the train tracks of the living].