The other day I was watching a movie that came out a few months ago. It’s already on HBO. I’m assuming it wasn’t that popular in theaters since it was on HBO so soon after its release. The movie was called “Yesterday” and it’s premise was that a man discovers that he appears to be the only one who remembers the pop music group, The Beatles. It is all intertwined with the main characters’ burgeoning love for a woman. So, it is a love story at heart with a healthy sprinkling of Beatles music.
I know this will tell my age but I was around when The Beatles became popular and were constantly at the top of the pop and rock music charts in the 60’s and 70’s. And while I can say I sang along with all their stuff, I wasn’t a super fan. I didn’t have a favorite Beatle and I was turned off by their music when I began to get the feeling that they wrote songs that sounded like they came from a drug induced haze.
It’s interesting to me to remember that time and to think of the rush of emotions when a new Beatles song came out and I learned all the words by heart. To this day if I hear the beginning of one of their earlier songs I could probably sing the rest of it all the way through.
So, as I was watching the movie I too sang along with all the songs that the main character was singing. But, I realized that these songs reminded me of fireworks. The emotional impact they had on me at the time I heard them again came flooding back. But, when I really examined the lyrics of what I was singing I found most of them to be a bit nonsensical, trendy and about trivial things. They held no real truth just a lot of emotion and hype. I remember that that was the way I felt way back in the day. They were all cotton candy whose message was catchy but faded quickly. I remember that one Christian artist wrote a song that said, “the Beatles sang about love and then they all broke up”. I also remember being astonished that one of them who could write about “having no possessions” and yet owned one of the most expensive penthouses in New York City. I was flabbergasted to find out that John rarely ever had any contact with his first son, Julian, who lived in England with his mother and yet became a stay-at-home dad to his son, Sean. In other words, I could sense even as a teenager and in my twenties that things weren’t adding up. Their words didn’t match their personal character or integrity.
Now, about a week after having watched the movie, here I am again thinking, “What was so wonderful about those songs again?” I think of pulling out some old CD or finding them online but I shrug my shoulders and say, “nah”. A blah sort of “nah”. That is because their music was like a fireworks display on the 4th of July. Pretty, spectacular and awesome but before I know it it’s time to pack up the lawn chairs, find the car and worry about the traffic jam we’ll have to drive through to get home. I can’t live in Beatleland forever. I can’t live in the place where fantasies come true through a song. I don’t want to live in the land of getting all hyped up and feeling super empowered to change the world only to need another dose of the Beatles songs to get hyped up again. I don’t want to feel that rush so badly that if I can’t get a new Beatles song or album that I turn to the next closest thing which is drugs or alcohol.
So, the other day I was reminiscing too about having spent about 2 years researching my family’s genealogy. That was so much fun. But, now it is 3 years since I did all of that work and I’ve recently had to go through a mountain of old papers that belonged to my parents (who are now deceased). As soon as I came across my father’s WW2 military discharge papers I wanted to go back and research where he was in the war. All of that genealogy stuff had settled down and now I wanted to gear it all back up again. I had to fight the urge to do it for the same reason I had to fight the urge to play the old Beatles’ songs again.
I had an image inside my mind that led me to this decision to not move forward on researching my father’s military records. The image was of me standing in a graveyard with a shovel, in the dark while digging in the dirt. I realized that there comes a point when you know that you are trying to dig up dead things. While I love to read about the Civil War and people in history, I wasn’t going for that kind of thing with my father’s military records. I was trying to reconnect to a strong feeling of family and closeness to other people that are now long gone. The Beatles songs are the same way. They were a connecting force to others who shared a common interest and common motivations. But, the things in the graveyard are long dead and buried. It isn’t the people that I am trying to resurrect but the feelings of closeness that they brought to me. I was looking for comfort and familiarity and was so desperate for it that I was willing to dig in a graveyard to hopefully find some scrap of something with an emotional pulse underneath the mounds of sod and dirt. But, it’s not there.
Jesus once said, “…no one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:62 (NIV) And I feel that somehow this scripture and my feelings of yearning for old connections to comfort me now are connected. I think Jesus was saying don’t think that God can use you if you decide to move forward with the tough work of living for God and then think twice after you’ve already started and look back to your former existence to see if it might be easier. It is that feeling of wanting to look into your past, from before you made this big change in your life, to see if you had it better before. Or another way to put is, “Did I just jump from the frying pan into the fire?”
We don’t need to go any further than to look at the Hebrew children whom God delivered out of slavery and bondage in Egypt to see that happen in the Bible. They got out into the wilderness with Moses and kept crying out to go back to Egypt and become slaves again. They kept looking back and yearning for the comfort and security of the past. God had to make sure that every single one of them died before going into the promised land because He knew they couldn’t make the transition again. They’d just want to go back to the desert.
The same thing happened when God brought Lot and his wife out of Sodom and Gomorrah. She looked back and she was turned into a pillar of salt. Since most of our bodies are made up of minerals and salt I am thinking that God took all of the water out of her body. He sort of freeze dried her.
There isn’t a one of us that doesn’t yearn for the things of the past at some point. A loved one who has died or a time when we were financially prosperous are good examples of that. But, the warning sign is when we try to connect with the past in a fantasy and gain feelings of empowerment, comfort or connection from those memories. It is then that God is no longer the One filling us, empowering us or connecting with us on a deep personal level but we are finding all these things through our own memories. And let’s face it, our memories aren’t reality. Our memories are like whitewashed fences. We forget a lot of the stuff that really went on. We forget about the trials and hurts we suffered along the way.
This is why I am truly thankful that Jesus doesn’t ask us to dig up the dead things of our past. He doesn’t ask us to live in the tombs of the dead things. He desires to bring us out into new life. He desires to wash away those old alliances with things long dead and wash away the emotional tags that keep pulling us back to yearning for a life long gone. When we do this His way we must be willing, however, to let go of the rope in our hands that is tied to the past and look ahead, fully engaged with our future.
James 1:8 “Such a person is double minded and unstable in all they do.” (NIV)
If my words here can be a cautionary tale then I hope they were helpful.
(It’s interesting to me that the characters in the movie, “Yesterday” were all aglow about how the world wasn’t the same as when all of society had a memory of the Beatles’ music but then the movie itself was only out in theaters for a very short time. I think the writers of this film were digging in graveyards themselves. Maybe, they should try life Jesus’ way?)
THE MIDDLE OF THE GARDEN / A BLOG TO SEE! / BY JANET WILLIAMS