Webster’s New World College Dictionary gives two definitions for the word “nostalgia,” and each of these definitions contains a very different truth about the Christian life. The first definition given is: a longing to go back to one’s home, or home land; homesickness. This type of nostalgia is good. It reminds us that we are not citizens of this earth and explains the restless longing we all feel as we eagerly anticipate the day when Jesus Christ will come back in glory to take His chosen people home. We are called to live our life here on earth knowing that our true home is in heaven, our life here merely a sojourn in a foreign land, and that we are all traveling back to the Father, in the footsteps of the Son, under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit. The second definition listed for “nostalgia” describes it as a longing for something we had long ago, or for a former happy circumstance. And while the first type of nostalgia keeps us focused on our heavenward journey, this type of nostalgia keeps us from making progress. Rather than pressing on toward the prize, we live in the faded glory of past accomplishments that blind us to the need for present day action.
When asked about the secret of his success, an Olympic gold medal runner explained the challenge we face. “The only way to win a race is to forget all the previous victories which would give you false pride and all former failures which would give you false fears. Each race is a new beginning. Pressing on to the finish tape is all that’s important!” If we hope to run the race set before us effectively, we must let go of both past failures and past accomplishment; the things that drag us down and the things that puff us up. As Christ-followers we must put all our nostalgic memories in proper perspective. We cannot gloat over the faded glory accomplishments of past performance that flatter us into complacency. Our puffed ego must not be allowed to delude us and keep us from living responsibly in the current moment. Resting on our laurels is just not an option for those called to press on toward their calling in Christ Jesus. We don’t have the comfort of living on the record of past victories like a champion who retires after winning. No matter how glorious our past, we always have a future–and a reason to press on toward the victor’s crown that awaits us at the end of our appointed course.
When we come into the First Place program, many of us have memories of success in other diet programs. Some of these fad-diets yielded quick weight-loss results when compared with our slow, steady progress in First Place. All too soon we forget that these quick-loss schemes also resulted in defeat, as the pounds began to creep back because those diets did not address the real root of our problem: a disordered relationship with God. Others of us live in the faded glory nostalgia of past success in First Place. We remember our zeal and enthusiasm when we first came into the First Place program. We recall exercising, eating healthy meals, learning to spend quality time with God–and how much weight we lost when we were faithful to the program. Yet, as we revel in past victories, we conveniently forget that in the present we are not doing the very things that allowed us to succeed. Faded glory nostalgia only serves to keep us from doing what God calls us to do today–keep the nine commitments of First Place. If we aspire to be First Place Losers, we cannot rest on our laurels and live on our past accomplishments. Each day is a new day in First Place. We are admonished to leave the past behind so we can press on toward the mark. Not a mark on the scale, but the mark of knowing Jesus and being in right relationship with God. Today I pray we will leave our faded glory nostalgia in the past so that we wholeheartedly focus on doing what is pleasing to God today.
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:14
Nothing wilts faster than the laurels you rest on.