Updated: Mar 5, 2022
I turned left down Rosemary Lane just as I had countless times before in years gone by. In the small southern Ohio town where I grew up it was the path I traveled to get to the public basketball court and where I spent untold hours playing the game I loved. It had been fifteen years since I last stepped on that court but on a whim, after flying back to the States for the month of July, I decided to contact an old friend and challenge him to a final game of one-on-one.
Stephen had a deceptive first step and a smooth release, he had crafted a finesse game that was always reminiscent to me of his basketball hero Julius Erving. I preferred to spend my time under the boards and above the rim. I wasn’t real consistent with anything past the foul line but all I needed was one step and I could dunk with authority. That was then. Stephen and I turned 40 six days apart in June and I’m afraid time and gravity have not been kind to our game.
We played one game, laughed our way through it, and then shot around as we caught up on our lives and reminisced about the past. There was a familiarity to it all that I quite enjoyed, from the sights surrounding the court to the sound of Stephen’s laugh, but my diminishing basketball skills was concrete proof that one cannot relive our yesterdays. The past is the past. I thank God for it, but it is the past. We are made to live in the present with an eye to the future.
There have been times in my life that I have been controlled by the past. Certainly there is room for reflection for “life can only be understood backwards” but to continue Søren Kierkegaard’s quote, “it must be lived forwards.” We shouldn’t be controlled by the past for who can make any forward progress looking behind them, rather we must run the race before us looking steadfastly toward the future. Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians, “This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.” Paul in writing that he would forget the things behind simply means he will no longer be influenced or affected by the past. Too many people are shackled by past regrets, sorrows, or a desire to “go back” to the way things were. As I have seen it stated from various sources, “we cannot go back and make a brand-new start but we can start from now and make a brand-new ending.”
We have only lived in Italy for 18 months but I was struck upon my return to the States that although things were quite familiar and we greatly enjoyed our time with family and friends, my life itself has changed drastically. My trip back reminded me that my passion and life is in Italy, living out God’s call with Sandy and the kids. My energy is concentrated on “one thing” and that is to reach Italians with the gospel of Jesus Christ. A trip down memory lane is a nice distraction but I don’t want it to be my destination.