What a Feeling

Earlier this week, my family went to see Disney’s latest movie, “Christopher Robin”.  It was a sweet, if somewhat simple, story of a grown man remembering the importance of family and friends.  As I watched, I was transported to my childhood, through the recollection of familiar songs and sayings of a bear and his friends, and my early adulthood, as I remembered watching on VHS these same stories with my children.  For me (and those my age), it was a trip down memory lane and into the hundred-acre wood, making me long for simpler times.

These thoughts I am having are ‘nostalgia’, which is defined as ‘a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition’.  The term comes from the Greek word nostos (home) and algia (pain): it is literally ‘home-sickness’.  Nostalgia is all about feelings: longing for the good old days or the hoping that we can make America great again.  But nostalgia (like all feelings) is not necessarily anchored in reality, for the good old days may not have been all that good for some in our society and the America of generations past may not have been as great as we recall.

Instead of embracing sentimentality based on feelings, the Bible commands us to elicit memories based on facts.  The last few weeks, at Vacation Bible School and through Sunday morning messages, I have read in the scriptures what we are commanded to remember: as the Israelites were crossing the Jordan River and entering the Promised Land they were commanded to erect a tower of 12 stones from the riverbed (an Ebenezer, a ‘stone of remembrance’) to remind future generations of the deliverance Lord had granted them; and through the letters Jesus dictated to the churches in Asia Minor they were commanded to remember the great height from which they had fallen.  They were commanded to remember the facts of God’s gracious and merciful interactions with them, not the emotions of the moment.

Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.  Revelation 3:3

The church is commanded to remember what we have received (tangible blessings and actual gifts) and what we have heard (reliable teachings and sworn testimonies).  We are not commanded to commemorate how we felt about what we have received or heard.  In fact, an argument could be made that nostalgia emotions and feelings are man-made idols which could take the place of God if we are not careful.  Instead of worshiping the God who has revealed Himself in the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, we are tempted to offer our sacrifices to the gods of happiness and comfort.   Unfortunately, those who choose feelings over facts end up with nothing.

It is good to remember what has happened in the past – what God has done and said – but it might not be best to wish we went back.  May the source of our joy in the present be what is real and not simply what we feel.

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One response

  1. Hi Mike —

    Relevant article, mi amigo.

    Despite WWII there are many things I remember with comfort and satisfaction.

    Being able to read at an early age I accepted the massive battles, deaths – an uncle and five neighbors’ relatives; two uncles and a four friends of the family wounded. Saw a fair number of Gold Stars in windows. But what is death to a 4-6 year-old? People go away and never return. Sad with no details, nothing with which to relate.

    Through WWII into my early twenties there was much to be finely emotional, happy about, but half the time there was an over-hanging loneliness.

    As a “latch child” during WWII I was fully cared for by any numbers of families changing daily. One builds up a self reliance that lasts through life.

    Easy to remember those ages, the comforts, the happiness of dining with a caring family … the cloudy, rainy cold days caught outside with nowhere to go. The drenched cold feeling while crawling through the unlocked kitchen window to our tenement first floor apartment, frying two eggs, opening a can of cold baked beans, toasted two bread slices, and having lunch alone in a dark cold apartment. Then tucking into bed fully soggy to warm, sleep, restore and dry.

    I’ll sleep well tonight …

    Bless you and your family,

    Frank

    ________________________________

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