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Looking Forward to Going Back

September 29, 2018

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It all began in a garden.

A perfect garden where sin and death were non-existent.  A perfect garden where creation stood in breathtaking perfection, unmarred by human hands.  A perfect garden where human hearts interacted flawlessly, and relationships were strong, intact, and unfragmented.  A perfect garden where there was no shame.  A perfect garden where there was no need to escape the openness of it all, and creep into dark corners.  A perfect garden where there were no regrets and no wishes for a chance to go back for a re-do of any kind.  Nothing needed to be re-done, because nothing had yet been undone.

But, that all changed the moment that Eve’s perfectly-formed teeth broke the skin of that perfectly-formed (forbidden) apple in that perfectly-formed Garden of Eden.  It was the first of many human missteps.  The first of many times that a crystal clear instruction from our Loving Creator was pridefully ignored.

In that moment, Satan danced with delight because he knew that he would soon hear a human heart whisper, “I wish I could go back,” for the very first time.  And, from that moment on, aching human hearts have been whispering that phrase over and over and over again.

Sometimes, it is whispered from a place of regret.  Sometimes, it is simply whispered from a place of longing/yearning.  Either way, it is a phrase that can paralyze us, and keep us from living joyfully in the present, and enjoying each God-given moment to the fullest.

“I wish I could go back.”

It’s a phrase that has plagued the human race since the beginning of time, and it still plagues us today.  It’s a phrase that can be fueled by many different emotions, and I have heard it followed up with many different, sobering thoughts….

~ “I wish I could go back to that time in our marriage when he looked at me how he now looks at her.”  (Spoken by a women who is fighting to keep her marriage afloat, after catching her husband cheating on her.)

~ “I wish I could go back in time, and kiss the sweet cheeks of my baby one more time.”  (Spoken by a mother who treasures motherhood…and aches because her children are growing up so quickly.)

~ “I wish I could go back, and prevent my husband from taking his own life, after falling prey to the unrelenting power of drug addiction.”  (Spoken by a widow who aches because she wakes up every day wondering if she could have done something to save the man she loved.)

~ “I wish I could go back to the years before that friend of mine pulled out of my life.”  (Spoken by a woman who can’t seem to get over the fact that her beloved friend has pulled away, and has chosen to distance herself from her…for reasons she doesn’t fully understand.)

~ “I wish I could go back, and stop myself from saying that to my sister.”  (Spoken by a man whose relationship with one of his closest family members has been forever stained – and strained – by something he said.)

~ “I wish I could go back and spend one more day with my best friend.”  (Spoken by a woman who still aches over the fact that her beloved friend’s life was cut short by cancer.)

~ “I wish I could go back to those Christmases, long ago.”  (Spoken by a lonely, elderly couple that aches for their home to be filled with wrapping paper, food, joy, music, and the laughter of their children on Christmas morning…just like it used to be.)

~ “I wish I could go back and meet my birth parents.”  (Spoken by a young lady who is filled with questions, doesn’t know who her birth parents are, and can’t shake the feeling that being placed up for adoption forces her to carry heavy labels, such as, “unwanted” and “unworthy”.)

~ “I wish I could go back to a time when things weren’t awkward between me and my extended family.”  (Spoken by a man whose family doesn’t agree with some of the choices he has made, which has created awkwardness and distance between them.)

~ “I wish I could go back to those days before she decided to make it her mission in life to make me feel worse, in an attempt to make herself feel better.”  (Spoken by a woman who misses the days when jealousy didn’t fuel the actions of a loved one toward her.)

~ “I wish I could go back to the days when my dad was still alive, and our family was intact.”  (Spoken by a grieving daughter, who struggles every day to understand why a young man chose to hop into his vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and recklessly cross over into her father’s path on the roadway.)

~ “I wish I could go back to those days before my pastor decided to leave.”  (Spoken by a man whose beloved church was uprooted, and misses the good ol’ days with his former pastor and church family.)

~ “I wish I could go back and tell her not to get in that car with her friends that evening.”  (Spoken by a bereaved mother whose young daughter was killed in a tragic car accident.)

~ “I wish I could go back to happier, simpler times, before relationships got so doggone complicated.”  (Spoken by a weary man who yearns for the simplicity of his youth to return, after years of experiencing one strained relationship after another.)

~ “I wish I could go back and change how I parented my children.”  (Spoken by a guilt-ridden father whose wiser/older self now realizes the ways he fell short as a younger/unseasoned parent.)

~ “I wish I could go back.”

It is uttered all the time…in spoken and unspoken ways.  Every day.  By so many.

As a follower of Christ, I am a true believer in restoration, reconciliation, and redemption.  I think sometimes those things can come to fruition here on earth.  (For instance, I truly believe that the marriage I mentioned above could possibly be restored, reconciled, and redeemed.  It would take some work.  But, by the grace of God, it could happen.)  Sometimes, however, full restoration, reconciliation, and redemption cannot come to fruition here on earth.  (For instance, the mother I mentioned above cannot physically go back in time, while on earth, and hold her babies once again.  The aging process cannot be reversed here on earth.  Those moments cannot be restored/redone.)

So, what is the anecdote?  What is the salve to rub on our wounding hearts whenever our longings, our yearnings, or our regrets involving the past begin to overwhelm us, and keep us from living fully in the present?  What is the healing balm that we can turn to when we have exhausted all attempts to relive, restore, reconcile, and redeem certain life situations?

For so long, I have wondered what exactly that might be.  What comfort does God have to offer to us – here and now – in our moments of yearning, longing, or regret?  What words of life can He bring into our hearts when we find ourselves whispering, “I wish I could go back.”   What would He say to us, each time we find ourselves aching to go back in time?  After all, He holds time in His hands.  Our past, present, and future.  What would He say to us during those moments when we find ourselves wanting to go back in time so badly that it hurts?  Knowing that He is the Author of time, I knew that He held the answer for us…but I was having trouble hearing it.

His response remained a mystery to me for quite some time.  But, in recent months, I feel like the veil has been lifting.  I think I may have found the salve – the healing balm – for my heart, each time I find myself wishing I could go back.

I simply imagine God saying to me, “Chin up, Carly.  Look forward to going back!”

“Look forward to going back!”

Someday, we WILL be able to go back to a time – and a land – of perfection….like the one that existed in the Garden of Eden.  When our regrets, our longings, and our yearnings to go back in time start to get the best of us, we need to remind ourselves that we CAN look forward to going back.

God promises that He will, one day, make all things new.  NEW.  He says that to us in His Word.  Someday, in the heavenly home He has prepared for us, all will be made new, right, whole, and perfect again.  How?!?  We have no earthly idea how that could be accomplished, right?!?  But, we don’t need to know how.  We can leave that up to Him.  He has made us a promise, and He will follow through.  How do we know?  Because He has a impeccable track record when it comes to promise-keeping.  And that thought should inject our hearts with happiness.

Not long ago, Bryan and I were watching an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” in which Julia Louis Dreyfus and Jerry Seinfeld discussed the topic of happiness.  Julia told Jerry that her mother once told her, “Happiness is always having something to look forward to.”  When I heard that, my first thought was that I couldn’t disagree more.  If we are always chasing after something, and living for the next big thing, we aren’t able to fully enjoy our current situation.  Happiness is found in the here and now.  However, the more I thought about what she said, the more I realized that – in a sense – she was (unintentionally) right.  From an earthly perspective, I think she was dead wrong.  But, from an eternal perspective, I think she was spot-on.

Happiness IS always having something to look forward to.  But, that “something” can’t be found on earth.  Through Christ, after we take our last breath on earth, we have been given something AMAZING to look forward to.

We can look forward to going back.

We can look forward to going back to a time of perfection.  No tears.  No strained relationships.  No awkwardness.  No shame.  No infidelity.  No regrets.  No loneliness.  None of the junk that we currently deal with here on earth.

I love my life.  I really do.  I am so thankful for my current life circumstances, and I feel immensely blessed by the amazing people that God has placed in my life.  Right here.  Right now.  In this season.

But, I would be lying if I said that I don’t look at some of the photos scattered throughout my home and feel an intense longing to go back to the time and the place depicted within them.  My reaction to some of them is a bittersweet one.  There are times when I look at photos of my grandparents, who left this earth years ago, and long to hug them and hear their voices again.  There are times when I look at certain photos of loved ones that depict less complicated seasons in our relationships with one another, and I ache to go back to those times.  There are times when I see photos of my six babies (when they were actual babies) and it brings me to tears.  I have treasured every single stage of motherhood.  And, after one stage has come and gone, I often mourn its passing.  There are times when I look at those baby faces plastered all over my walls, and think, “I wish I could go back.”

One of those photos was taken in 2012.  It pictures me with my youngest daughter, Morganne.  I remember the day clearly.  It was a mild, beautiful, autumn day.  We were at our local orchard.  We were goofing around, and that spunky, adorable, baby girl of mine was holding an apple up to my mouth…coaxing me to take a bite out of it.  Pure joy.  Pure happiness.  Perfection.  For so many reasons, I treasure that photo.  It’s a reminder of a precious stage in my daughter’s life, and a wonderful reminder of just how precious motherhood is.

But, that photo is also a stark reminder of a garden.

The first garden.  The perfect garden.  The garden where that fateful, prideful bite of a forbidden apple occurred.  The garden where the phrase, “I wish I could go back,” was uttered for the very first time.

But, that garden isn’t just a thing of our past, thanks to Jesus.  It isn’t just a place that we must simply look back on, with a sense of helpless yearning.  That garden – in its perfectly restored state – also awaits us in the future.  And, who knows?!?  Maybe God will make it possible for us revisit some of our most precious times in this life.  Maybe He will make it possible for us to not just relive them, but experience them in a whole new light.  After all, He is making all things new.  ALL things new.

Think about that for a moment.  Think about the newness and the restoration that is to come.  Think about that each time you are tempted to whisper, “I wish I could go back.”

Instead of choosing to wallow in that sobering thought, which can rob us of the present joys before us, we can choose to bask in a thought of a different kind…

“I look forward to going back!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The One who sat on the throne announced to His creation, ‘See I am making all things new!  Write these words down!  They are faithful and true!’ ”

(Revelation 21:5)

 

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