The danger lurking in your attic is the photos. You went up among the gables to reorganize the clutter, but the box of disheveled 35 mm images beckoned to you, and before you knew it you had lost a day’s productivity.
It is a very strange thing, this taking the past captive on celluloid. For the first thousands of years of human experience mankind was not able to gaze backward at frozen moments, nor a person able to perceive his image as it was. What unanticipated impact on the psyche has this hitherto verboten ability wrought? Does nature itself resist it? I have a half-dozen photos of my grandparents, a dozen of my parents, thrice that number of my childhood days, a score times more of my children, and photos like confetti of my grandkids.
I am amused by God’s terse recommendation to the Israelite commander Joshua that opens the Bible book bearing his name:
“… the LORD said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, ‘Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them …” (Joshua 1:1–2, ESV).
Not much saccharine sentimentality there: Moses is dead. Get on with it.
We find similar abruptness in the account of the disciples gathered together watching Jesus ascend into heaven. They were tempted to linger and savor this historic moment. Then came the interruption by heavenly messengers:
“And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10–11, ESV).
In other words: Jesus is gone. Get on with it.
When Elijah was blubbering over his abusive treatment at the hands of Queen Jezebel, God gave him a good sleep, a good meal, and then straightaway gave him three new assignments: Go anoint Hazael king over Syria, then go anoint Jehu king over Israel, and anoint Elisha to replace you as prophet (1 Kings 19).
In other words: Man up. Get on with it.
This is not mean. It is not as if God is abandoning these people—and that is the point. He says, in effect, I am with you just as I was with those before you. So don’t spend too much time looking over your shoulder or pouring over your dog-eared photos of yesteryear.
“Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks in the day he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world” (John 11:9, ESV).
Let us be diligent to walk in that light, and not forfeit the daylight over entertaining shadows.