“But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.”
1 Corinthians 2:9 (Common English Bible)
Several years ago, my friend, Michael Brown, retired from the Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, where he was the senior minister. Retirement implores each of us to examine what we have gathered through our life and forces the decision of what will be retained for a few more years and what will be given away. For Michael, one of the most difficult decisions was what he would do with his professional library—a library built with considerable thought and care over forty years of ministry. Among his large and distinguished collection of books were approximately twenty volumes by Leslie D. Weatherhead, a Methodist pastor of another generation. These volumes had special value for Michael, and he could not simply dispose of them. What he settled upon was asking me if I would add them to my library.
This is not uncommon—passing to our children or dear friends those things that hold rich meaning for us, but we are simply unable to possess any longer. My brother, Wayne, has our mother’s wedding ring and I have my father’s wallet which holds very old pictures of him as a child and of his parents—pictures that were to him of great nostalgic value. Nostalgia is a very natural, deep, and powerful emotion that takes up residence in many of us. The value of nostalgia is that it reminds us from where we come and provides a sense of identity and connection to something much larger than our individual lives. But nostalgia can be dangerous. Nostalgia is dangerous if it entraps us in yesterday; traps us in a yearning to return to the past. By idealizing the past, the present and future begin to grow dim.
The apostle Paul recognizes the potential dangers of nostalgia in these words he writes to the Christians in Corinth; “God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being.” Though the Bible has a rich regard for remembering the past—particularly God’s mighty acts—God desires that our faith be one that leans forward into the future. Paul seeks to assure the Christians in Corinth that the past, however rich their memories may be, is nothing compared to what is to come. God continues to be present in our lives, as God was present in our past. God continues to create, as God created in the past. Therefore, the practice of our faith is to lean forward, not backward as some caught in nostalgia are apt to do.
Today there are frightened and insecure people. They don’t know what the future holds. They cannot grasp the future, cannot see the future. The result is that they cannot manage or manipulate the future. Largely beyond their control, they fear the unknown. At its core, that is what original sin is, that great teaching of the church that is simply the desire to go through life on our own. Fiercely independent, we may love God, but we don’t want to trust God with the navigation of our lives. That belongs to us, or so we wish it would be. The result is fear, fear of what unknown circumstances, health challenges, and loss of loved ones will bring. Paul asks that we let go of our grasp of the future and trust it to God once again. For God does know the future. What is now hidden from us has been prepared for us by God.