“We Built this City” on comfort

16 01 2012

Looking back.  A lot of us have fond memories from our early childhoods, whether it was a special time with friends and family or a particular song or movie.  I can remember wanting to watch certain movies as an adult that I watched as a kid, but when I watched them, I was disappointed.  My adult self is disappointed by the poor production values and the general goofy-ness of movies aimed at children in the 1980s (i.e. Short Circuit, the Never-Ending Story, etc).

Recently, one such instance struck me as I was listening to “We Built this City” by Jefferson Starship.  The song is about San Francisco, and my mom, being from the Bay Area, loved the song.  I had fun listening to the song with her, and if it weren’t for her, I probably would not have listened to or enjoyed the song.  This “hearing” reminded me of that time.  A good memory.  The memory and the song provided me a lot of comfort (a happy time in an unhappy childhood), but the song itself is really not that timeless (despite Bernie Tuapin’s lyrics)

This experience made me examine where or in what we can find comfort.  This yearning to experience things from the past is called nostalgia.  Nostalgia is defined as an excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.  We long to repeat these experiences because we remember them with fondness and familiarity.  But finding comfort in the past is dangerous.

Isaiah 43:18 says “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past.” In context, God is telling the nation of Israel to stop remembering what He did and to see what He is doing now.  When people dwell on the past and how God operated in the past, they begin to camp out there.  Bill Johnson, in When Heaven Invades Earth, call hanging onto the past the enemy of the new work of the LORD. A new denomination is created because this is now the only way God will operate.  We reduce the Almighty Creator, Father of Heaven and Earth, The Alpha and Omega down to a formula.  We make Him a math equation, a recipe.  We add a pinch of worship, followed by a dash prayer, and a two cups of scripture and wait for God to show up like He did before.  The problem is that God does not respond to us.

God calls us, and we respond to Him.  I do not mean to disparage spiritual disciplines.  They are necessary, but they do not cause God to respond to us.  He doesn’t live in buildings built by human hands.  He lives in the hearts of those that He has called.  Humble hearts that hear His call and respond with gratitude.  Spiritual disciplines train us to hear his voice.  Studying scripture, prayer and worship enable us to discern His voice from among the many, as it says in 1 John 4:1″…test the spirits…”

When we turn to formula, we miss the spontaneous nature of God and make ourselves susceptible to deceit from the enemy.  When we draw comfort from the former things and former ways, we miss what God is doing right now.  What past patterns or experiences do you hold on to tightly?   What are you missing in the now?

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