Looking Back Before Moving Forward
“You will remember all the way the Lord your God led you in the desert these forty years, so you would not have pride, and how He tested you to know what was in your heart to see if you would obey His Laws or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2, NLV)
It happened 20 years ago, but I remember the morning with unusual clarity.
It was moving day, and my only emotion was relief. My husband and I had just lived through one of the toughest seasons of our young married life. We’d juggled graduate school and job changes, leaped into parenthood, and fallen into the pit of exhaustion. Stress had been high, and money had been short. And while I was thankful for the things we’d learned, I couldn't wait to head across the state line with our children and begin the next chapter of our story.
Soon we’d load all of our belongings into a little rented trailer, but first, God prompted me to take an early-morning walk around the block.
The last thing I wanted to do was circle the same pedestrian path I’d already strolled a thousand times. I was worn out and burnt out, too weary to cry and too sapped to feel sentimental. But I was also too tired to argue with God, so I traded my objections for obedience and headed out the door.
As I retraced my steps on the cracked sidewalks of our humble neighborhood, I sensed the Lord inviting me to take one final look at the familiar sights in this place where I’d cried untold tears and prayed desperate prayers.
I walked by the empty lot laced with knee-high grass and remembered my toddler proudly presenting me with dandelion bouquets each time he plucked golden beauty from that overgrown patch of weeds.
I sauntered past the sagging white porch with the weathered rocking chair and remembered the neighbor who had invited me to share a glass of cold tea as she served my children a plate of warm cookies.
I meandered by the sandbox at the park and remembered women who’d offered me empathy and encouragement while wee ones played at our feet.
I traipsed past the convenience store at the intersection and remembered the ice cream cones we’d bought to celebrate small victories and special days.
And as the dark before dawn gave way to the pink streaks of sunrise, I found myself peering with fresh perspective at my prosaic path.
My loop around the neighborhood wasn’t marked by stunning scenery or searing joy, but it was dotted with understated goodness.
Yes, the season had been hard.
Yes, my heart had been hurt.
Yes, my faith had been stretched.
Yet sprinkled in the midst of things I'd rather forget were graces I needed to remember.
And as I recalled those simple gifts, I saw more clearly the way God had met me in the throes of difficulty and the ache of disappointment.
He hadn’t left me to stumble through the challenges alone. He’d steadied my steps with unpretentious celebrations and unassuming beauty. He’d buoyed my heart with unexpected friendships and unsolicited kindness.
That’s the poignant power of looking back before we lunge forward. It readjusts our vision and reveals God’s faithfulness. It fine-tunes our memory and fortifies our gratitude.
Perhaps that’s why Moses encouraged God’s people with these words before they traded the searing sand of the wilderness for the long-awaited soil of the promised land:
“You will remember all the way the Lord your God led you in the desert these forty years, so you would not have pride, and how He tested you to know what was in your heart to see if you would obey His Laws or not” (Deuteronomy 8:2).
Moses wasn’t asking his fellow desert-dwellers to glamorize the difficult season they’d just survived. He was simply inviting them to recognize the presence of the One who had been with them all along the way.
The point of looking back isn’t to leave us stuck in the past but to propel us with renewed confidence into our future.
So today, as I dive headfirst into 2022, I'm following in the footsteps of the 28-year-old me. As I bid goodbye to a year that’s sapped my heart and stretched my faith, I’m taking a metaphorical walk around the block of 2021.
And as I do, I’m asking the Holy Spirit to reveal the goodness and grace I’ve failed to see. Because I want to remember that, no matter how bumpy the road has been, the Giver of good gifts has shared every step.
Dear Jesus, thank You for never leaving me to walk alone. Give me eyes to see Your presents and Your presence as I look back over the last year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
OUR FAVORITE THINGS
When we read the Bible, we often think of Jesus as only being physically present in the New Testament … but did you know He was actually active in the Old Testament from the beginning?
It’s so important to study how Jesus makes His presence known in every part of Scripture because this will help us experience more of His presence in our day-to-day lives right now. Our next ministry-wide Bible study by Lysa TerKeurst and Joel Muddamalle, Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, starts January 10! In this study, you will be invigorated and comforted in your personal time with Jesus by walking through five weeks of guided readings, questions and relevant takeaways for your life today. Order your study guide now!
For a free resource to help you look back before you move forward, visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s website today.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
James 1:17, “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.” (CEB)
Set aside time to take a prayerful look back at 2021. Thank God for the gifts you see. And in the comments, let us know what those gifts are!
© 2022 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.