Nostalgia is a Killer
It’s been a year since my brother died at 37. He drank himself to death. Why? Because he was full of regret and seduced by nostalgia.This is why I say nostalgia is a killer.
Let me explain…
A few years ago, I had a powerful recurring dream that has shaped the way I think about regrets. I was 37 at the time. I had the dream around 4 times in the span of six weeks.
In the dream, I awake in my 19 year old self. It was a good time. I was in excellent shape. I had no debt. I was teaching bible studies and dating my now wife, Emily.
But I had all the knowledge of my 37 year old self.
I knew all my mistakes…
Accumulating student debt, delaying children, putting off seminary, aligning myself with the wrong churches, not buying that stock, wasting money on dumb stuff, letting my health slip, etc.
And now I could avoid it all for my family and give us an even brighter future.
Or could I?
In my dream, I realized I could do it for a family but not the family I have now.
If we got married sooner and immediately had kids, it wouldn’t be the kids we have now.
A different sperm would find its way to a different ovum and a different child would be conceived.
No doubt we would love that child but it wouldn’t be our first born son, Hudson. And we wouldn’t have Athanasius, Caedmon, Nicaea, etc either. To have them, I would have to perfectly recreate my life. And that’s where this dream becomes a nightmare.
Every little decision. Every little word spoken. Every little… and big mistake. I would have to recreate them all to have the family I now love. At this point, fear would overwhelm and I’d usually wake up.
This dream freed me from the tyranny of regrets.
Many mistakes were made. Many sins were committed. I do regret things in my past but I’ve also repent of those sins. Christ has forgiven me.
And somehow Christ has worked through all those things, both good and bad, to give me the blessed life I have now.
I can't change the past and if I could I'd still screw things up.
So I simply repent of sin and trust in God's perfect providence.
These days I mostly enjoy the present and dream about the future. God is good.
This brings me back to “nostalgia being a killer.”
Here’s its definition : “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
Those who are ruled by regret can get stuck in the past. They long for some happy time before they made all their mistakes.
This happens because they either 1) refuse to actually address their regrets or 2) have come to believe there is no recovery from their mistakes.
The end result is they come to believe that their best days are behind them in some supposed good old days.
They mentally time-travel out of their present to a happy past and in doing sacrifice their future.
This is what happened to my little brother. All his conversations were about our childhood. He was consumed with the good ole days. But I was there. They weren’t always as good as he remembered them. They were definitely better than his present but they didn't have to be better than his future.
Regret paired with nostalgia can kill you.
I enjoyed the 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, 20s. There were some good times. But I am eternal. Many of my best days are yet to come.
I will live forever and ever. So I'll enjoy the 1,000,000s and so forth. My mistakes can't rob me of the future. To live is Christ, to die gain.
Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.