The philosopher Kierkegaard once pointed out long ago that we all live life forward but examine it backward. My response to that is, “Well, we can’t live life backward and examine it forward.” To me, what Kierkegaard said makes perfect sense. I don’t think it is weird. How can we examine tomorrow when it hasn’t even been lived yet? THAT would be weird. If we could know what was going to happen tomorrow, I think we would obsess over how to change the bad stuff. We’d be more stressed. There would be one moment, one chance. And then, what’s done is done. We go on. We live with the consequences. Or ignore them. It seems to me that we do all that anyway. Life is funny like that.
For much of my life, I’ve been ruled by fear. It didn’t matter that I grew up going to church. It was only one hour a week. And I could not understand most of the time what was going on. I learned the “Our Father” prayer and stuff like that, but going to church back then just meant waking up early and going somewhere to listen to a guy blab on and on about nothing in particular (according to me… hey, I wear hearing aids). And in the Catholic church, my understanding of the sermons were further hindered by the fact that we often had a priest with a thick Hispanic accent. I would be sitting there in the pew and my mind would start wandering. And more often than not, my gaze would find the cross above the altar, the one on which hung a statue of Jesus.
I knew my Bible stories, in large part thanks to a beautiful Bible picture book. I loved the story of Jesus raising the little girl from the dead. That was my favorite. I think I liked it because I recognized something familiar in it. My soul was in turmoil. I cried easily. So many tears. I just did not understand how this could be my life. I was waiting (without even knowing it) for the Jesus in that picture book to call me to life.
And there was the Jesus up on the cross. I knew in my hearts of hearts that he was kind, he was good, and he was love personified. I knew that in my head. But it didn’t resonate with me, not in my soul. He was dead, long dead. How can some who has been dead for hundreds of years love me? He probably was unaware I even existed, if dead people could think. Then I had a nightmare. He came down off the cross and chased me around the church. I woke up before he caught me.
Now, when I go to other churches, I see that they don’t have the statue of Jesus on the cross. And I wish, with all my heart, that we could have gone to one of those churches when I was growing up. But I never told anyone my fears. I never talked about being scared of Jesus. Now, I can laugh about it. I was such a child! Making stuff up in my head and then believing it to be truth.
It is true that we’re likely to make more mistakes if we base our future (which is looking ahead) entirely on the past (which is looking backward). The past is a part of us, yes, but it doesn’t need to define who we are now and who we will be tomorrow. Tomorrow, we get a whole new slate to fill. Tomorrow, anything’s possible. The same is true for today, about the moments of it that we have yet to reach. Life is NOW. It isn’t going to wait for us to decide we want to catch up to it. It happens whether we want it to or not. And hopefully, we do.