‘Auld Lang Syne’ — What does it mean to you?
In “When Harry Met Sally,” Billy Crystal’s baffled Harry wonders, “What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot?’ Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances and old times be forgot?’ Or does it mean that if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot them?” Sally reasons, “Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something.”
At this time of the year, when the excitement of a new year and a fresh start beckon, the opening two lines ask a provoking, rhetorical question “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind” … and then finishes with asking, “old times since?”
Hundreds of years before Robert Burns penned this classic, Isaiah passed along words from God that are a great answer to the question. “Cease to dwell on days gone by, and brood over past history. Here and now I am doing a new thing. This moment it will break from the bud. Can you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18)
I believe we should be aware that remembering the past can hold us back. And remembering the past can propel us forward. What do you think?
The Children of Israel, being set free from Egyptian slavery, longed for the past. Lot’s wife looked back, she lagged behind, even after being told not to, and was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). When I long for the “good old days” I’m claiming that the past was better and I miss it. More importantly, I’m missing what God wants to do, and is trying to do with me now.
In chapter 3 of the book of Joshua, the Children are instructed to move forward into the great place God had for them, the Promised Land. They faced a raging, swollen, virtually flood-stage river seemingly preventing them. Joshua’s assuring words were “Consecrate yourselves … move forward … step out into the river” The word for “consecrate” speaks to one who is set apart, special, like the Children, chosen and called.
Here’s where looking back and remembering might help. Those people held past memories of God, providing food in the desert, guidance night and day, and parting the Red Sea to save them (Isaiah 43:16)
Do you miss the “good old days” of the past? Here and now, at this moment, God wants do a new thing. Can you get it? Catch a glimpse and follow the path. He promised, “I will make a way through the wilderness, and rivers in the barren desert.” (Isaiah 43:19)
These words compel me to make sure that I don’t “dwell” (take up residence) in the past, or “brood” over past history (hatch something). What promised land has God has chosen and set apart for you? Remember how God’s been with you in the past, is with you now, and will continue to be with you all the way through the future to the end.
Hear Jeremiah’s great lament, “I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day. (Lamentations 3:20-23)
He’s not waiting to begin. He’s already begun. Jump on board.
Pastor Bill Baltz is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.