Easing out of the tight parking slot, I craned my neck to be sure not to hit the electrical pole smack behind me—or the neighbor's car in the driveway next to it. They really didn't leave much room in this alley...or this parking spot...you had to turn the wheel just right....
In concentrating behind me, I'd failed to check the front corner of the car. Judging from the dents in the downspout on the corner of the garage, I was not the first to make this mistake. Thankfully, the damage to the pipe was negligible, and Queen Vashti's could have been much worse. Still, she did have a white bruise on her bumper. Not a dent (phew). Her own paint seemed mostly intact, but a bit of white paint from the pipe had rubbed off onto her. Nothing big.
Well, no sense crying over scraped bumpers. I enjoyed the sunny ride, alternating between AC and open sunroof.
Back home in my driveway, I peeled off as much of the white paint as I could. Then I scraped at it with my fingernails. Then I rubbed at it with a rag and some mild solvent.
My efforts greatly diminished the damage. But I'm afraid I can't undo all of it.
As I scrubbed, scratched, and peeled, I thought about how much of my life I'm spent looking behind me. Looking back on the trail to see how far up the mountain I've come. Looking back to relive happy memories—sometimes to long for the "good old days." Looking back to examine my childhood through adult eyes. Looking back to remember how God has led me. Looking back to find the roots of my present thoughts, feelings, and behavior. Looking back to recount to others the lessons I've learned along the way. Looking back with remorse, confusion, or sorrow. Looking back with nostalgia, delight, and contentment. Sometimes, looking back with bitterness. Other times, looking behind me with deep gratitude.
Looking behind us has useful functions. If I had a bogey man behind me, I'd want to know. If a child is following me, I need to keep track of her. When I'm in reverse, I want to know what's behind me. (Honestly, I'd rather have scraped the corner than hit the pole!) Sometimes, we need to look backward, even move backward, before we can move forward again.
Someone wise has said, "We have nothing to fear for the future except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us."
"And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way . . . to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" (Deuteronomy 8:2).
Sometimes we need to look back and remember. We need to see our mistakes, feel our pain, understand what went wrong—and see God's faithfulness, how He's cherished and led us. We need to learn from what is behind us so that we can use the lessons as we move forward.
But it is possible to look back too much. If I'm living in the past instead of the present—it's too much. If I'm looking back so much that I'm not looking forward, it's too much. "I press on . . . forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal" (Philippians 3:12-14).
As the wise man wrote, "To everything there is a season" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We should make time for reflection—but not to the exclusion of projection! Tears have their place; so does laughter. Today must be a mixture of yesterday's experiences and tomorrow's dreams.
A little white bruise on my car will remind me.