Looking Back or Living in the Now?

“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62

Marcia and I made a BIG decision this week. We put our beloved mountain home in central Colorado up for sale. I repeat, it was a very big decision!  For decades a mountain home was our dream, and ever since we purchased it in 1998, it has been our goal to retire in this beautiful place.

Three years ago I retired, so here we are living happily ever after – or so we thought! Now we are going to leave and let go of a long held aspiration. We do not have the financial wherewithal to own more than one house, so it comes down to staying where we are or moving on. It’s as simple as that – or maybe it’s not so simple.

Of course, the reason we are moving on is that we have two young grandchildren, the offspring of our son and his wife, in the Kansas City area. After intensely discussing this for at least two years in what seemed like a never-ending conversation, our decision was shaped by numerous factors but came down to this. Ten, fifteen or twenty years from now, if we live that long, what will we regret more? Will we regret more that we moved away from central Colorado, or will we regret more that we could have played a much more significant role in our grandchildren’s lives and given them blessed memories of loving and affirming grandparents, as well as the blessings that will be ours of experiencing them growing and maturing close up and personal? In the end it was a no brainer!  We are leaving this blessed place for the blessed people that live at the other end.

Is this the biggest decision we have ever had to make? Probably not!  Other big decisions include things like: getting married in the first place, having a child, choosing ministry as a career, leaving several congregations to move on to a new ministry (including one in Alaska) and all the smaller, but nevertheless profound, decisions that come with everyday living. I could go on, but you are probably getting the idea. Have we always made the best choice?  No!  There were a couple of congregational moves that probably weren’t the best choice for a variety of reasons that I need not go into here. There were other choices I made that if I could do over, I would do differently.

In Luke 9 Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” In my own life, I have made some bad choices concerning numerous things. If I could live my life over, I would make very different choices. But I can’t. All I have is today and the choices I can make today; choices that will have profound implications for the future.

God knows there are plenty of things in my past I could spend a lot of time and energy looking back at with regret and guilt, but there is no future in that. That kind of thinking and emotional aching is a DEAD END!  We certainly can learn from the past by looking back, but we cannot live in the past. Living in the past steals from the present and subverts the future. Perhaps this passage from Luke 9 can speak to this.

When the house sells, and we get to the Kansas City area, and it’s July and 99 degrees with 75% humidity, and it’s too hot and humid to go outside, and I imagine the hum of the air conditioner sounding like a cash register racking up costly kilowatt hours, will I regret that we moved?  At that point I will have a choice to do one of two things. First, I could look back with regret knowing our former Colorado home is probably a comfortable 80 degrees with 12% humidity, or I could look into the faces of those two precious grandchildren and seize the opportunity that is right in front of me to love and be loved that will do far more to fulfill our and their humanity and bring us all a sense of deeper joy.

I don’t know where you are in your life. But wherever you are, I ask, What reality are you spending most of your time in? Are you looking back at God knows what with regret, guilt and longing; hanging on to past wounds, failures, mistakes, missed opportunities, betrayals, the good old days, whatever! Is it stealing from your present and subverting your future? Or are you seeing the NOW and the glorious opportunities that are provided in the choices you make today?


1 thought on “Looking Back or Living in the Now?

  1. Rod Schofield

    Joe, what a beautiful meditation regarding your decision. I especially liked your statement that you are leaving a blessed place to be with the blessed people in your family. So well put and describes the basis for our decision as well. Thank you for sharing your decision process with us. We look forward to more such posts.


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