Summary: Nostalgia is a fatal disease, because the burdens of the past are idolatrous and wearisome, and will bring us down with them. But remember who God is and what His purpose is.
This past February I received a diagnosis, and, I’m sorry to
say, it’s serious. I have a disease, commonly fatal. If it is not
treated, it will destroy me, and I will gradually lose my
abilities. I’m telling you about it, because, if we do not take
some protective efforts, it will become contagious, and you
might get it too. I have a serious disease, and I think you
should be among the first to know about it.
Let me describe its symptoms, and then I’ll tell you its name.
First, it makes me very tired. Just worn out. When this
disease kicks in, I become too weary to work, too pooped to
play, and too bushed to bother. Just extremely tired.
Next, I am beginning to decline. I am looking like death
warmed over. I become moody and depressed and start
looking over my shoulder to see who’s coming to get me.
Something is coming to carry me home. I am declining.
And then there are the memory lapses. Not only will I be
tired out, and not only will everything bleed away, but in
addition I forget things. I forget some very important items.
Now I won’t forget everything; some things I remember very
well, and in fact, won’t be able to let go of. But other things I
forget, or, more likely, remember selectively. I remember
them, but not necessarily as they really are; I remember
enough to be frustrated and upset, but not enough to know
what I really ought to be doing. When this disease takes
over, there are whole days when I cannot recall the things
that matter the most, but I remember other things that I could
just as easily do without. I am able to tell you every phone
number of every place I’ve ever lived; but I won’t be able to
tell you who I am. Yes, it’s that bad.
By now you are beginning to think that you know what my
disease is. You’ve developed your own little amateur
diagnosis. I know I did last February when it hit me. I
developed a few pet theories.
I thought maybe I was experiencing senile dementia. You
know what that is; that’s just hifalutin’ language for “crazy old
man.” But no, I figured that wasn’t it; anybody who’s crazy
enough to have preached for forty years is already
demented. Nothing new. That wasn’t it.
And then I wondered about Alzheimer’s disease. That’s
making its way around these days. I’ve heard a lot about
Alzheimer’s. They say that if you have Alzheimer’s, you get
irritable and hard to live with. Well, no, that can’t be the
problem; again, that’s nothing new. I’ve been irritable ever
since I was ten years old and they made me practice the
piano instead of playing softball. And as for being hard to
live with, well, this coming Tuesday Margaret gets her 42nd
annual Purple Heart. Nothing new. That can’t be it.
If it isn’t dementia, and it isn’t Alzheimer’s, could it be
anemia? Tired blood? Not enough juice in the plumbing?
Not likely; I don’t really hemorrhage anything but money! No,
I’ll tell you exactly what I have. I know its name. I have its
number. I have a galloping, rollicking, chronic case of
nostalgia! Not neuralgia, not nausea, but nostalgia! I want
to go back to the way things used to be. I want somebody to
carry me back to old days, old times. That’s what I have!
Nostalgia, with a capital N and a deep desire for old ways,
old ideas, and old habits. Nostalgia – that insatiable and
wistful desire to get back to the way we were.
You know what that’s like. Brothers, we want cars with
running boards and spark plugs you can take out and set the
gap. Ladies, we want those old Sundays when we went to
church first thing in the morning, stayed until the afternoon,
ate gospel bird on the grounds, sat through more preaching
and singing in the evening, and did it all in our best bib and
tucker, hotter than firecrackers. We have a bad case of
nostalgia; we want the old ways. Carry me back to old!
The danger of being a senior – and that’s really what hit me
on the third of February – that mythical age 65 marker – the
danger of being a senior is that we struggle with change.
We fight against the changes in our own bodies, and we start
to resist everything. Something in us shouts, “Stop the
world, I want to get off!” Something says, “Carry me back to
old”, the place where I was born and the things I used to do.
But there is danger in that. Profound danger.
The prophet of the Exile, a disciple of the great Isaiah, so