The holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day produces a fascinating conflict of emotions in most of us. We usually exit this period with fewer [not more] insights into ourselves. Most of us enter the period with great expectations. Most of us leave the period focusing on the things we would like to change, but with a resignation that admits changes either would be temporary or non-existent. We enter with excitement as we embraced it with “Hi!” and leave it with pretended reluctance as we say “Bye!”

Why? Why is there so much excitement as we enter the period and such relief when it is over? Why the same basic sense of excitement when we greet the period with an exuberant “Hi!” and leave it with the same exuberance in saying “Bye”?

It is reunion time—perhaps with family we have not seen in a long time, or perhaps with friends from some past era of life. As we anticipate these reunions, for a moment it seems we will step back into a time and world where nothing has changed.

“It will just be like old times again!” Yet, it is not. Times have changed. We have changed. They have changed. It takes maybe an hour to “catch up” with each other. Then we spend the rest of the time “remembering.” We must spend a lot of time “remembering” because we are no longer a part of each other’s “present.” It is not that we do not love each other dearly nor have deep appreciation for old friends or family members’ contributions to our lives “back when.” It is just no longer “back when.” It is “now,” and “now” is undeniably different from “back when.”

What in anticipation was to be a wonderful visit to the cherished past times becomes a powerful reminder that our past is gone and will not return. While reunions bring the joys of wonderful memories, the remembrances are just that—memories.

As we remember the wonderful times of past eras, we are woefully reminded about what we never did or how we need to change. Many “resolves” are stirred to life. For a brief time we are committed to doing what we always intended to do or changing what we always intended to change. However, it does not last long. We are not the same person we used to be “back when.” Our resolve means that (a) we have to change [permanently] the person we have been a long time and/or (b) change the way we live. Even for the most flexible, vigorous people, those are huge demands requiring major commitment!

As you plunge ahead into life, take a powerful, wonderful lesson with you as you say “bye” to the holidays. The lesson? Realize and remember that you do not live in the past, no matter how wonderful [or awful] it was. Realize and remember that you live in the present, and it just takes one day to change the present for the better.

You may not know what the future holds, but you know where the future is. Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 4 January 2004

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