Nostalgia

Complain, complain, complain. Does it ever seem like complaining is a natural activity? I wonder if seeing the challenges instead of the opportunities surrounding us is part of being human. Perhaps we outgrow our childhood sense of wonder and sadly replace it with a sense of entitlement.

Let’s rejoin the Israelites as they continue to march across the desert to the Promised Land. In Exodus 16, they leave their lovely camp at Elim and pass through the aptly named Desert of Sin.

In the desert, the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:2 – 3).

“Nostalgia” is just another name for selective memory. It’s the game called the “Good Ol’ Days,” and it begins “I remember when.” It doesn’t stop until everyone is unhappy with the way things are. How quickly we forget the hardships of the past! It might seem like in the Good Ol’ Days, everyone had “Leave It to Beaver” lives or “Ozzy and Harriet” families. Selective memory passes over polio, Jim Crow laws, and dentistry without Novocain!

Churches can be the same way. People ask silly nostalgic questions: “Where have all the great preachers gone?” “I remember when we were the fastest-growing church in America!” “In the old days, we never would have had this discussion!”

Nostalgia could have hit the church of the second century hard. I can imagine a conversation after services around 110 a.d. “I remember when preachers could raise the dead!” “This new generation doesn’t know how good they’ve got it. Imagine using books instead of those beautiful scrolls!” “In my day, we met in homes, or even caves, but now we’re wasting money on buildings and baptistries!”

I love history, and I love listening to the stories of the days gone by, but the problem with nostalgia is, it is unbalanced. Things were never as bad or as good as we remember. Christians are called to live balanced lives – lives with both eyes open.

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