I heard an analogy today that left an impression on me. It launched a train of thought with many tracks. “Your car has a big windshield, but a small rear view mirror. That’s because you’re supposed to spend most of your time looking forward, and just a little time looking back.” Maybe I’ve heard that before, but this time it stuck. There are lots of ways to apply that analogy, but I’ll just focus on a few that came to mind.
Some people have lives that are wrecked because they spend too much time living in the past. Maybe they enjoyed their past so much that they feel cheated or apathetic about the present or the future. Perhaps they were deeply hurt in the past and their inability to forgive prevents them from enjoying life now. Then there are people who live in the past because it is their familiar comfort zone. They are afraid to grow. Looking out the windshield is too scary, too intimidating.
Some Christians read the Bible and study Church teachings without really allowing what has been revealed in the past to impact their present and their future in a meaningful way. It’s a bit like devouring books on carpentry without ever intending to build anything. They like the reading and the studying, but the real-life application escapes them. They are looking in the rear view mirror at revelation and doctrine, but failing to see how it applies to the road they are on. They know all about Jesus, but they are not following him. They are not seeing life and people through the eyes of Christ.
Some people use the rear view mirror primarily as a vanity mirror. They are more focused on self than on the road or others around them. When they finally do look out the windshield, it is out of concern for their own safety rather than everyone’s safety. They care more about self than others, even others in the car with them.
When the rear view mirror becomes larger than the windshield, watch out. Certainly there are times to embrace the memories of the past and reminisce with joy and gratitude. There are times to examine the past for the purpose of healing and growth. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the past or learning from the past. That’s why we write things down and take photos and videos. In order to really live abundantly, however, we can’t live in the past. Nor can we live in the future. We must have our eyes forward and our hands on the wheels of our vehicles. Christ is in the pace car. Follow him. Where he will lead you is better than anything you’ll see in your rear view mirror.