nostalgia negates vision


Today on my commute to my full-time job, I had a thought:

I am stuck in a nostalgia loop.

My vision is 75% backwards and 25% present.  I tend to dwell on what happened yesterday, 10 years ago, and 100 years ago.  I focus on the choices I made then that have taken me to where I am now.

And for a guy whose strengths are in futuristic planning and strategy— this is not a good thing.

Nostalgia can and will kill vision. For nostalgia is more than an appreciation of the past, it’s a longing of an idealized past that is a lie.

In the movie Midnight in Paris, by Woody Allen and staring Owen Wilson, the main character, Gil,  is nostalgic for Paris in the 1920s.  He desperately wants to live like Hemingway and the Fitzgerald’s.  He idealizes this past that he never knew. However, as time moves on, he meets a girl who is nostalgic for Paris in the 1890s and they meet another nostalgic for another ‘Golden Age’ and so on and so forth.  She ends up staying in the past, but Gil can’t stay in the 1920s and definitely not the 1890s. In the end, Gil realizes that his happiness is not in the past but living in the present.

When I first watched this movie, I identified with Gil tremendously.  I was a man who longed to live in the past– and as a history minor and self-described ‘traditionalist’– I tended to have my head there.  But I never found that place where I could dress in suits, and smoke my pipe, and have a liquor cabinet in my office.  That place doesn’t exist.  And if you watch the show Mad Men, you know that the characters lived lives that were unfulfilled and in a way nostalgic of a simpler time.

Listen to me closely: our joy and happiness is not in this idealized time of the past. It’s not in 1950s America or 1880s England. It’s not in the ‘could’ve beens‘ and ‘should’ve beens‘ of high school or college.

It’s here. Right. Now.

We just have to choose it. And it’s not a some Joel Osteen type of power of positive thinking. It’s a diving deep into the crap of this life and being content in the grace of God that no matter if we feel completely overwhelmed,

God. Is. Present.

In our pain and in our joy–

God. Is. Present.

It may not seem it but He is.

And our vision as leaders can be colored and distracted by trying to recreate a ‘golden age’ of what we are looking for in our congregations and board rooms.  God is at work in the present just as much as God was at work in the past.  That’s a key thought.  God wasn’t somehow closer 500 or 1000 years ago, than he is now, in our present circumstances and troubles.

Vision needs to grasp Tradition and history, but we need to leave nostalgia behind to meet God in the here & now.


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