Don’t Look Back

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 My Old Dorm at USC

   It’s 1978, and I’m trying to sleep. But sleep don’t come easy when you’re living on the third floor of Preston Hall on the University of South Carolina campus. However, it’s not my roommate’s fault that I’m not sleeping. Sal (Salvatore) is a likeable guy. As Italian as they come. From Jersey, too. Sal would have fit in well with the old Chicago mob, mainly because he had “the look.” Hefty, dark skin with Rocky Balboa eyes. The kind of guy who could have worn a fedora and pin striped suit to class…smoking a stogie, and probably gotten away with it. Sal got me hooked on late night take-out  subs and pizza. Hey, it was college. But no, Sal, despite his snoring, wasn’t the reason behind my inability to snooze.

This particular night, it’s the guy down the hall – the one with the really loud stereo. Yes, we had an RA, but who knows where he was half the time. Besides, despite our rooms being next door to each other I wasn’t one of our RA’s favorite people. It may have had something to do with my not-so-nice comment about his 3-foot stack of Playboys.

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   Anyway, that night what was keeping my eyes wide open was Boston’s Don’t Look Back blaring from 3 doors down. Sorry if that (or any other Boston song) now reverberates in your head the rest of the day. Boston’s tight distortion and smooth harmonies have a way of getting into your mind like that. And just in case that’s not enough, here are some sample lyrics from the song itself,

Don’t look back

A new day is breakin’

It’s been too long since I felt this way

I don’t mind where I get taken

The road is callin’

Today is the day

I can see

It took so long to realize

I’m much too strong

Not to compromise

Now I see what I am is holding me down

I’ll turn it around

I finally see the dawn arrivin’

I see beyond the road I’m drivin’

Far away and left behind

    If you’re in a toe-tapping mood, you can listen to it HERE.

But despite how you might remember the band, view the song itself or parse the meaning behind the lyrics, the title still delivers some pretty kicking’ advice. Life is hard enough when you’re staring straight ahead, peddle-to-the-metal, giving it all you’ve got (I have a feeling you know what I’m talking about). But it’s even harder when you’re turned around or looking in the rearview mirror. Looking back takes your eyes off what’s really important. It causes you to hesitate, and maybe even second guess where God is leading you. And sometimes it can even derail you enough to become consumed by the past. Just ask Lot’s wife.[1] Or ask any runner. You can never win the race by looking behind you. Reminiscing is ok. But wallowing in regret is not.

Or you could ask Paul, and if so, this would be his response:

    “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

   No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

   Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things.” (Philippians 3:12-15)

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   You can thank Paul later for writing that if you like. Or you can thank God right now. Focusing on Christ and His plan for you always gives you something tangible to look forward to. Always.

Even if it’s just a good night’s sleep.

[1] Genesis 19:12-26

Christian Kryptonite

  I made an unsettling discovery a while back. One of my shop hammers turned up bent. Not sure how that happened, but now it doesn’t work quite right. In fact, I no longer use it at all. Oh, I have other hammers. I’m just surprised because I didn’t know that hammers could do that.

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In reality, bending to the point of snapping may simply mean you quietly lose your steam, your passion in life. It means you give up, give in and give yourself over to something just as deadly as overt sin or that experience which “kills” you. You succumb to the awful curse of mediocrity, a fatal disease which relegates you to an almost drone-like existence. It doesn’t take you out like a sniper’s bullet, or snuff out your existence in a millisecond like a roadside bomb. Instead, it eats away at you like a cancer, a little bit every day.

And time becomes your enemy.

As fallible humans, we forget how fragile life is, and how weak we really are. We see a true picture of ourselves when we’re under the stress, weight and burden that life consistently heaves on top of us. Finances. Anxiety. Family problems. Fears. Relationship struggles. Job or career frustrations. And we wake up one day and decide we’re tired of carrying the load and fighting the battle. We decide to “check out” emotionally. and the downward spiral begins.

So where will your strength come from? An “iron will”? A positive attitude? Some philosophical Zen mind trick? A doctor’s prescription? Or something better, deeper and more practical and substantive?

We are not as strong as we think we are.

Even hammers can bend.