Monday, August 11, 2014

Week 27: Look Back but Don’t Linger

© Lunamarina |

© Lunamarina |

I drive to work in silence. Silence – that means no radio, no music, no phone calls, nothing. It’s my time to spend alone with my thoughts and in prayer prior to starting the work day, and it’s been my habit for years.

I reflect on the weirdest things while driving in silence. For example, one morning I began looking back over my past. Within 30 minutes, my mind traveled over at least the past 20 years of my life – past relationships, past mistakes, people who’ve come, people who’ve gone and just all kinds of things.

It felt strange.

I’m a thinker, so times of intentional reflection aren’t uncommon. But this time it just felt random and even a bit weird. It was early in the morning; the sun was barely awake and there was nothing in particular on my mind. I couldn’t identify any obvious triggers. I simply found myself looking back.

The next morning, I was keenly aware of my “looking back” again, but this time it was through my rearview mirror. You’re probably saying, “Okkk??? Aren’t you supposed to do that,” and yes, of course, I am. It’s imperative that I use my rear view mirror and even side view mirrors to look back – to see what’s going on or who’s approaching behind me. Is there an emergency vehicle I need to make room for or a crazy person driving two inches from my bumper?

I feel like I’m rambling now, so I’ll get to the point.

There I was, on two consecutive mornings looking back at different things for different reasons and was reminded that looking back over life isn’t always a bad thing. We’re taught not to dwell on the past. Remember, I even talked about it in the week 4 post and cited truth I believe from biblical scripture.

The dangers of spending too much time revisiting my past are shame, disappointment and comparison traps. If I linger in my looking back, I may get bogged down with where I was, what I did, who I did it with (HELLO, lol) what went wrong, what mistakes I made and where I could have been had I not done x,y,z. Who needs that? What does it do for me? How does it edify me? It doesn’t. It does the exact opposite. But we can’t always stop our minds from drifting toward the past, right?

The difference was, that morning as I reflected on my past I was overcome with an intense feeling of gratitude for my present. My mind recalled the melody of a song often sung by a deacon in my childhood church. The song was “Look Where He Brought Me From.” The whole church used to love for this deacon to get up and sing. He’d sway and sing as if his only audience member was the King of Kings himself. This song was one of his favorite tunes.

Look where he brought me from.

As a child, my understanding of “look where he brought me from” was limited to the intellectual knowledge of what those six words mean when used together, in that order, to form a sentence. Obviously “He” is God and I’m looking to see some place God brought me from. However, what that place was I had no earthly idea, because at that point I hadn’t really been anywhere. Yet, on that particular morning I looked back and marveled, “wow…”

It was my “AH-HA” moment.

It was beneficial for me to look back, just as it’s beneficial for me to check my rear view mirror periodically while driving. But just like while driving, I must be sure to look back but not linger. If I spend too much time peering in my rear view mirror while driving, what do you think could happen? For starters, I’m no longer paying attention to any of the traffic in front of me. Quite possibly the car in my lane stopped suddenly for some reason, and what will happen to me? I’ll probably kiss the rear bumper of that car because I’m lingering in my looking back.

The same holds true for lingering on thoughts of the past.

When I look back and compare where I was yesterday to where I am today, I have the opportunity to be grateful, to be thankful. I have the opportunity to rejoice over progress. And that’s what I want to do. I hope that’s what you want to do, as well.



Special note: This post was originally a voice recorded message, recorded on July 18, 2014. It was transcribed and edited to share as a post.