“And the Scriptures also say, â€˜He is the Stone that some will stumble over and the Rock that will make them fall.’ They will stumble because they will not listen to God’s word, nor obey it, and so this punishment must follow – that they will fall. But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God Himself – you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own – all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness and into His wonderful light” (I Peter 2:8-9)
This morning’s local news program played a montage of wacky video clips from news stories in 2008. The national news plays the year in review too, a little more serious but the same idea – in two minutes they’ll flash video snippets of all the important events they’ve recorded over the last year. Right after that, they’ll report on our dismal economic future and what the incoming administration intends to do about it.
This is the time of year for that sort of stuff. We reflect on what’s past and look toward what’s future. Our theme song is “Auld Lang Syne.” The song is actually an old Scottish poem by Robert Burns. Auld Lang Syne means literally “old long since,” or “days gone by.” It’s a reflection and celebration of memories shared between comrades. “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?” Traditionally we sing the song at the stroke of midnight on New Years Eve as a salute to friends and memories of the past year. The song puts the old year to bed.
As soon as we’re done singing we do this terrific turn around. We wipe the teary sentiment of â€˜days gone by’ from our eyes and resolve to do, or not do, all thing things in the new year that we didn’t do, or did do in the past year. It’s a pretty big jump in one day – from dwelling on the past to dwelling on the future. But that’s what we do this time of year.
A lot of the self-help gurus advise us to focus on the moment – “be where you are.” The past is past, the future is future; we can’t do anything about either one. The only thing we can really affect is our present. Focus on this moment – the past is gone and the future will take care of itself.
Sounds like pretty good advice, doesn’t it? I agree with them. In the long run, it’s only what we do that matters, and we can only do stuff at the moment. We can’t do anything in the past and we can’t do anything in the future. We can only â€˜do it now.‘
So why bother with the past and the future? Why sing Auld Lang Syne? Why make all those New Years resolutions? If all that matters is the present, why waste our time dwelling on what’s gone by or what’s yet to come?
The gurus are right; we can’t live in the past or in the future. We live life in the present – right this moment. But they’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle; past and the future have their purpose – they’re anchor points – reminders that our lives aren’t just about the journey, they’re about our point of origin and our final destination. Where we start and where we finish gives meaning and purpose to what we do in-between.
It’s like going on a car trip across country. You start from home and it’s your intention to finish at some far away destination. You can’t get there from here unless you take the trip. And your whole trip is made up of a series of individual actions – get in the car, turn the key, shift into drive, push the gas pedal, turn right out of your driveway – you get the picture. A car trip across country can be broken down into thousands of individual steps. And you can’t get to step two until you make step one, and so on.
Your life is like the car trip. Living in the present, what you do in the moment, are the steps – get in the car, turn the key, shift into drive, etc. The trip is a series of actions. Without the actions, there’s no car trip. And, as we discovered earlier, you can’t take action in the past or in the future. You can only take action in the present.
So we’re back to the present? That’s all that matters right? Past is past, future hasn’t gotten here yet; all that matters is now? That’s what the gurus would have us think. It’s what they do.
But all the present action in the world isn’t going to create any purpose in our lives. Without action, purpose is dead; but action doesn’t create purpose. Action is a response to purpose. Your purpose for the car trip is to get from where you are to where you’re going. Without knowing where you came from you have no idea which direction to go to get to your destination. And without a destination, you’re just driving around.
That’s kinda dumb.
But that’s exactly what we hear from the vast majority of â€˜guides,’ telling us the right way to travel. I call those â€˜guides,’ gurus. â€˜Guru’ is Sanskrit; â€˜Gu’ is light, â€˜Ru’ is darkness. Originally, a Guru was a Hindu teacher – a guide on the path from â€˜darkness’ to â€˜light’. Today we’ve got lots of gurus, or wanna-be gurus; all of them ready tell us just how to go from â€˜darkness’ to â€˜light’ – how to get from point a to point b.
The problem is that they don’t want to think about the darkness and they’re clueless about the light. They’ve forgotten where they started and they don’t know where they’re going. All they want to talk about is the trip. You really want directions from these guys?
The One who brought me from darkness to light is called the â€˜light of the world.’ He didn’t just show me the path, He created it. I believe I’ll take my instructions for the trip from Him. There’s purpose in that trip – to go from darkness to light. From where you started to where you’ll end up.
It’s December 29th. Go ahead and sing â€˜Auld Lang Syne’; it’s a reminder of where you’ve been. Go ahead and start that list of New Years resolutions; it’s looking forward to the trip ahead. But the best advice I can offer for this trip is to keep your eyes on the road in front of you. Understand from Whom to get directions, and then follow them, turn for turn. Each step of the trip is made in the present. What you do in the moment, right now, will eventually determine your final destination.
At least the gurus got that part right.
See you next year.