That which is, that which was, and that which has not yet come to pass…
These lines from the theological masterpiece, “The Lord of the Rings”, echo in my ears quite frequently. I remember a seventeen year-old young man who desired to become a priest, but quickly gave that dream away for some cheap booze and temporary comfort. Unknowing, uncomfortable, and unable to feel worthy enough, he ran away from the Church into the arms of a cruel world and a harsh reality…always trying to get back to the way it ‘used to be’.
Being a teenager is quite possibly one of the most difficult times in our lives but we don’t remember it; we’re so plagued by our current context that when a young person bemoans the goings-on of their lives, we gloss over it and say something flippant like, “I’d trade places with you in a second.” Really? WOULD you? Because I wouldn’t go back to being a teenager for all the ‘howdies’ in Texas. But that’s our nature—to yearn for that which is past because it’s been shaded in our memory as ‘the good ol’ days’. But those days were full of change, too.
We weren’t old enough to lament days past. We didn’t know any better. But most importantly, we still held wonder in our hearts for the possibilities that lie before us.
The saying, “You can’t ever go home,” really is irritating because of its misplaced truth. In reality, it should say, “You can try to go ‘back’ there but it’ll be different and you’ll be disappointed. Just sit tight and make the best of where you are and who you can be. You’re already home.” I imagine at some point, people cease looking ahead or living in the present, preferring to glance behind; the summation of memories’ earned paint a vibrant picture more pleasing to view than the daunting inevitability of looming advanced age. And yet I wonder as my thoughts wander into hope rather than lamentation. Are the best days behind us, ever? Or, accompanied by faith, hope and love, are we in store for more grace, deeper knowledge, and new experiences?
There’s a point to the past: It tells us where we’ve been and allows us to remember our mistakes, our successes and all the ‘stuff’ in between. But it’s the past. Our duty to the past is only to venerate those who came before us while simultaneously attempting to improve upon the work they conducted. SO much has changed within our community, and it will keep changing. I don’t know that we’ll ever get to a place where we long to cease growth and stop searching for opportunities. But I do know that we will never be the same as we are, today. We will have to reconcile our desire to make time stand still with the ongoing call to keep stretching ourselves to do the work we’ve been given. The ‘glory days’ are still ahead, these are but just some of them. The beginnings of whispers that will turn to shouts of joy, great AMENS to God because of where we’re being led by the Spirit.
So, whether it’s a piece of property being renewed, a piece of the church being replaced, or a piece of ourselves that has to fade in order to make way for a new normal, we would do well to celebrate ‘the way it used to be’ while also joyfully exclaiming the prospect of that which has yet to pass. This is our home, God’s kingdom on earth. Where you are, so I also shall be. We will live together, learn together, cry together, and change the world together. We’ll change each other together. Some things may look different, the building and worship may seem ‘new’; but really, they’re simply old bones being brought back to life and traditional worship being placed in contemporary context—past joys relived, with a sprinkle of future hope on top. Don’t worry about tomorrow or fret about what used to be. This is your home. These are your people. This is our time.
We can’t ever go back ‘home’…
…because in truth, we never really left.