Were my eyes playing tricks on me, or was something up with that guy's tire?
"Mom, what's wrong with his tire?"
Okay, it wasn't just me. The driver of the pick-up truck in front of me was clearly losing the tire off the back of his trailer. "I think," I said, as bits of rubber started flying toward my windshield, "that he's having a blow-out." I slowed down, anticipating that he would pull off to the side of the road as soon as he realized what was happening.
Except he didn't. He kept going 65 miles an hour as the tire continued to rip apart. And then the entire thing came off and flew across the road, the rim of the trailer blazing along the pavement. He didn't even slow down. Smoke started billowing up behind him. I honked several times. Surely that would make him look in his rear view mirror and see the cloud of smoke. Nope. Nothing.
The kids and I started laughing in disbelief. "Wow, Mom, he must be really determined to get where he's going!"
When he finally pulled over, I thought to myself that there was probably a lesson here. Everyone knows that you can't drive looking in the rear view mirror. You can't move forward if you're always looking back. It's the same with life. If we focus on the past and spend hours contemplating our childhood and reevaluating past choices, we won't make forward progress. Ecclesiastes tells us that it is better not to "dwell unduly" on the things that happen in our lives. (Ecc. 5:19-20) We have to travel with our eyes forward.
The pick-up truck driver had that lesson down. No looking back for that guy! He had his eye on the goal and he was moving forward. He was off to work and nothing was going to distract him. But he didn't take the time to realize that things were falling apart behind him. Every once in awhile, we need that rear view mirror. A quick glance back here and there can give us information that will help us reach our destination.
After all, how can we learn life's lessons if we don't take some time to look back and evaluate? There are many who spend far too much time pondering and reconsidering every step, but the hyper-charged people out there- we know who we are- are guilty of the opposite folly: Moving toward a goal at a breakneck speed at the expense of letting the past instruct us. I find it's far easier than I'd like to admit to fall into that trap, especially in the little day to day areas. After all, when something huge happens, you pretty much have to stop and take notice. If your house burns down, there will be inspections and reports. What caused this massive disaster? But in our day to day life, it's easier to ignore the warning signs.
Take parenting as an example. One of the advantages (other than having a fail-safe retirement plan) of having a lot of children is being able to learn from your mistakes and change tactics. That's why we firstborn children are all so tightly wound and high strung, parents just have no idea what's a big deal and what isn't. So with the first child, we usually decide that EVERYTHING is a big deal. When Nathan was seven, he started lying. Oh my goodness! What kind of future con artist were we raising? And then, he stopped. And when the next child turned seven and started to lie, we said, "Hasn't this happened before?" By the third or fourth time, I was able to say, "Well, it looks like it's time to start teaching the required seven-year-old curriculum on the value of honesty." I could look in the rear view mirror and apply those lessons as I moved forward.
A look back can also remind us of all the ground we've covered in the past. Sometimes, the destination is too far ahead to even see. There are just too many turns in the road between us and where we're going. We have to remember, then, how far we've come, how many times the Lord has sustained us in the past, how we've overcome obstacles that seemed insurmountable before. And as we look back, we get the courage to move forward.
"A wise man considers well his steps." (Prov. 14:15) On the highway of life, we'd all do well to check the rear view mirror every now and again.