Music has a way of holding memories, taking you back to certain places and times in your life. No matter how much time has passed, if you hear that one song, all the memories start flooding back. Personally, I love musical walks down memory lane.
My house, growing up, was filled with music. So it’s always fun for me to pull up those old songs on Spotify or YouTube and just reminisce. If I put on Tramaine Hawkins’ “Look at Me,” suddenly, I’m transported back to my four-year-old self who could listen to that song over and over. I remember sitting in front of our record player (yes, record player) and just singing my heart out with Tramaine. Or if I listen to anything from The Clark Sisters, I’m reminded of my brother, sister and me skipping around the coffee table in joyful celebration of the songs we loved. These are such wonderful memories for me.
But not all songs hold happy memories for me. I remember when my classmate was stabbed and killed in high school. I must have listened to Commissioned’s “Cry On” a million times. And even now when I hear that song, I get teary-eyed, remembering how sad I felt, even though, for the life of me, I can’t remember his name.
Today, I was listening to several songs that were on repeat during my divorce. On one hand, all the emotions I felt as I walked through my divorce came rushing back. But at the same time, a great sense of gratitude washed over me because I wasn’t in that broken place anymore. I could remember and even feel the pain, but it didn’t hold the same power over me anymore.
There are several verses that encourage us to look forward not back, like Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (ESV, emphasis added). Or Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (ESV, emphasis added).
There is a trap in reminiscing. It can be easy to “romanticize” the past. And I think that’s what these verses are warning against. We have to be careful not to get so stuck in the past that we can’t move forward into what God wants to do in our lives now. But there is value in looking back and seeing how far God has brought you.
The people of Israel understood this. Before they entered into the Promise Land, in Deuteronomy, Moses retells all that happened from their Exodus out of Egypt to the forty years in the wilderness, reminding the people of all that God had done for them: “I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn off your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5 ESV).
Even as they were crossing into the Promise Land, God instructed them to set up Memorial Stones from the Jordan: “And Joshua said to them, ‘Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, “What do those stones mean to you?” then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever'” (Joshua 4:5-7 ESV).
But as we see in the book of Judges, there is a danger of forgetting: “And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them that did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10 ESV, emphasis added). Just one generation after the people of Israel had taken possession of the Promise Land, they had forgotten all that God had done. As a result, “…the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger” (Judges 2:11-12 ESV).
It’s important not to get caught in the past, reliving the “glory days.” But it’s equally important to remember and acknowledge how far you’ve come and all that God has done for you. Like the people of Israel, set up memorial stones so that you can be reminded of what God has done. But don’t stay camped out at the banks of the Jordan. There’s so much more land to possess.
“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.”Deuteronomy 4:9 ESV
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