“I want to get back there.” These words struck me as they came out of the student’s mouth. Well, more than striking me, they stuck to me. I couldn’t shake them. Why? I was talking to a college student about his faith. He was describing the vibrant connection to God he had in his high school days. But now that he is an upperclassman in college, it was all such a grind—there are so many questions and doubts. It seems so natural that he would want to get back to a time when things were good. Everyone has fond memories, nostalgic thoughts about sweet days gone by. Yet his sentiment nagged at me.
Good authors and storytellers keep a plot moving forward—always forward. So naturally, it was while I was reading a novel that it finally dawned on me why this student’s desire “get back there” caused mental friction for me: To get back there is to reverse the plot. Every person has a story, and there is a single Author—the Perfect Author—for us all. We are inexorably, inevitably moving forward in our stories. Each individual story connects to all the others directly or by degrees. So what happens if someone seeks to double-back on his plotline? It breaks the story, and maybe not only his but also the stories of others. God is taking our stories somewhere, always onward, to His end.
Of course all great stories build. Every memory is a piece of the foundation on which our story has been built. Every nostalgic moment informs the present and the future. When the student thinks back on his fervent spiritual life as a high schooler there is significance and value there, but not as a part of the story to be rehashed. Instead, it should remind him that such connection to God is real and possible. Rather than being jealous of his own past he should find hope for his future. His story is moving on, and now he knows that he can be personally connected with God, just in a future chapter.
Thinking back on that conversation I wish all this had clicked then. But then, that’s just me wanting to relive an old chapter of the story. Instead, my responsibility is the same as his—look ahead in the story with the resources of the past. What do I know now that I missed at the time? If I encounter a similar situation (never exactly the same one, though) will I be prepared to respond better? My story intersected with that student’s, and now both of us have a better foundation for the next chapters God is authoring.