Adele Richards is an amateur parent of two exceedingly fabulous little girls. Once upon a time, in a galaxy far away...
If I told you I’d invented a time machine and you could go back to a different time of your life, where would you go?
Back to the halcyon days of childhood where a balloon on a string and a cookie were enough to make you happy?
Back to the intensity and passion of teenage years and all those feelings?
Back to the camaraderie of student days; of first freedoms and deep friendships?
Or if you’ve got older kids, would you go back to having your kids small and cute and safe again?
Would you go back to change something or to just enjoy it over?
Would you go back at all?
"It’s one of my theories that when people give advice, they’re really just talking to themselves in the past." says Austin Kleon
I sometimes try to imagine myself at 70 and wonder what kind of advice I would give to my 39 year-old self right now. I suspect it would be something like “Enjoy it, you’re going to get there, there where you desperately want to be. And it’ll be good, but more complicated than you think. Don’t be in a rush. Don’t miss this bit. Enjoy the waiting.” At which point I’d say, “Sheesh, what happened to your hair?” And, “I knew I should have moisturised my hands more.”
Depending on personality, we all have a tendency to spend more of our thought and emotional life dwelling in either the past, the present or the future. Me? I’m wired into the future. I’m a glass half-full, it’s going to be great, can’t get there soon enough kind of person. But in the last few years I’ve been bemused to find I’ve got a bit stuck in the past. Meanwhile the present has felt like I’ve been in a long-term ‘holding pattern’ flying around and around and around the landing strip, waiting for the control tower to radio me in. The airport is shrouded in fog and I can’t see where I’m going. Maybe that’s why I’ve been looking back. Trying to work out how I ended up here, when once the future was so bright and so clear.
I guess in some ways we’re all living in the past. To the extent that we have unresolved hurts from earlier times, we are emotionally stuck there. Some of us never progress beyond the deepest hurts – those of childhood. Some of us cling to teenage rebellion. It’s human nature: we stick to what we know. But until we understand and see it from a different perspective we’ll never move beyond it.
The present is very absorbing with all its busyness – its food shopping and cooking and figuring out what to wear, where to go and when, how much money to spend. We can convincingly lose ourselves in the tedium of everyday life. Especially when facing the big emotional issues is frankly something we’d rather not ever do. Sometimes we sweat the small stuff, because it gives us an excuse not to sweat the big stuff.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)
Here’s the problem. Sticking our heads in the sand of today, we fail to resolve the issues of yesterday. That’s a sure way to scupper ourselves from moving into our God-intended tomorrows. Isn’t that one of the definitions of madness: doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results?
Sometimes God allows us to stay in a holding pattern, or treading water, if you prefer that metaphor. Because he knows we need to be desperately bored or stuck before we’ll face up to things. Sometimes he’s just getting us so sick of the status quo that we’ll rouse ourselves and drag up the energy to change; to propel us into the future. Sometimes he’s just giving us a rest; a breather from the past and preparation for the future. What’s he up to with you at the moment?
I haven’t actually quite perfected my time machine yet, (the elastic bands keep snapping and I need a whole lot more aluminum foil), so you can’t go forward in time and consult with your much older self for some wisdom and perspective. So, you’ll have to talk to God about it. And then there’s the next best thing: get some counselling. Don’t be a chicken, be a Nike. Just do it.
So there’s that. But there’s also this. Enjoying the wait. Staying in the moment. Learning to be content in the present. Then we can say with the apostle Paul: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” (Philippians 4: 11 NIV)
Our culture is not very good at this. Even when we’re in the epicentre of a special moment, we watch it through the lens of our camera phones; recording the moment to show someone else in the future; to preserve it for the future. We miss it in the moment. We’re composing a tweet or a facebook status about it rather than entering in.
As I say, I’m not that good at enjoying the present. I hate waiting, I want to be up and running, not spending another hour warming up. But I get the feeling, that when the timing is right, when the race is about to start up, and the gun goes off, we’re going to be really glad we spent all that time treading water and stretching. All the preparation, which seemed dull and pointless, is going to come good in an instant. In the twinkling of an eye. And I do like a twinkly eye.
So I’m going to keep processing the places I’ve got stuck in the past emotionally, talking to God about them, letting him speak into the pain. I’m going to try and chill out in the present and trust him so I can enjoy the calm before the storm. And I’m going to believe God has a really great Ace up his sleeve for my future.
That’s my plan to get back to the future. What’s yours?
If you’re stuck in the past. If you suspect the emotions of yesteryear are affecting your today. Or if you're stuck in the same holding pattern year after year, get in touch with a lovely expert who can unstick you. I recommend:
Life Coaching with Lynley Allan of Bounce (former Director of the School of Ministry and Head of Prophetic Ministry at Catch The Fire, and one of my very best friends).
If you're feeling stuck and your goals seem out of reach, get in touch with with Lynley at Bounce coaching to identify what you want, find the motivation you need and take the necessary action towards success. You can find Bounce on Skype and Twitter. For more contact information go to the Bounce website.
Restoring the Foundations (RTF) prayer ministry. Book a Healing Week or an Issue-Focused session with your local Restoring the Foundations ministers. Details are available here.