Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nostalgia: Remembering an Idealized Version of the Past

Remembering personal experiences is a tricky thing, primarily because no experience is lived independently. We experience life through the lens of every experience that came before.

We form our identity, the way we see ourselves, through those experiences.

As we remember things that came before, certain details come to the forefront, and other details fade.

So in chapter 29, we see Job, remembering the past. I can't help but thing his view is sort of skewed.

"How I long for the months gone by . . ."
Everything was so very awesome in those days.
God watched over me.
God's intimate friendship blessed my house.
My children were around me.
The young men saw me and stepped aside, and the old men rose to their feet.
The chiefs covered their mouths so I could speak.

Everybody loved me, honored me, respected me.
I took care of widows, orphans, the dying, the oppressed, the lame, the blind . . .
I punished the wicked.

I have to wonder where he found the time to be good to so many people, take care of his business, nurture his relationships with his wife and children.

And was this really an idealized time?
Did everybody like him, or did some resent him for his success?
And I seem to recall that his children spent a lot of time partying at the beach house.

He continues in chapter 30: "Now no one cares about me. They all mock me. And God doesn't listen to me. I might as well die."

And in chapter 31, he becomes completely self-righteous. "I've never lusted after a woman. Ever. If I have, then go ahead and sleep with my wife because I would deserve it." (Apparently men of that time were much more chaste than the men of our time.)

He has never, ever, walked past or ignored a person without food, without clothing. He has never denied justice to anyone. (Here I'm thinking about Matthew 25, when the people defended themselves to Jesus.)

As for his righteous deeds, apparently he has been caring for the poor, the widows, and the orphans all his life, from youth, even from birth.

I get it. He is a good guy. I just don't believe he is as perfect as he sees himself, or that people loved him quite as much as he seems to think.

Maybe. But I doubt it.

My point is this, and at this moment I've sort of forgotten my point . . .
When we remember our idealized versions of the past, or sometimes we do the opposite of idealizing the past and make martyrs of ourselves, we shut God out of the past and the present.

My prayer, when I'm remembering it, is this:
God, help me to see people the way you see them. Give me wisdom in each situation, your wisdom. Help me to remember who you are, instead of who I am. Help me to see you and know you, help me to be like you.

Think Psalm 139.
Search me, O God, and know my heart. Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Think Ephesians 1 and 3.
Give me a Spirit of wisdom and revelation so I may know you better. Open the eyes of my heart so that I may know the hope to which you have called me, understand who you have made me to be, trust in your boundless love, and live in your amazing power and truth, which can do far more than I can even imagine.

God's truth, his character, his power, and his love are not caged by circumstances, no matter how unjust, how bleak, how hopeless they seem.

We can't understand God, but we can learn to trust him.

No comments: