“That used to be a big house.” That’s one of the stranger things that I’ve heard my mother say as I drive around the area of northeast Independence, Missouri where she grew up.
Part of me wants to turn to her and ask, “Did the house shrink?” but I bite my tongue. There’s no point to questioning this or any of the various statements that she makes, each one suggesting that things are different and not for the better. I’d definitely be wasting my time to share this:
Don’t say, “Why were the former days better than these?”Ecclesiastes 7:10
since it is not wise of you to ask this.
The Good Old Days
Why does it seem natural for us to believe that we’re living in an time that falls short of some by-gone golden age. Since my mother just turned ninety-nine, I find it very easy to see this tendency in her. She constantly laments how much things cost. “I can remember when bread was a nickel a loaf.” She probably can’t, but when she bought bread for 20 cents in 1940, she also worked at Sears and Roebuck, a good job, for $15 a week. That means that she could have purchased 75 loaves of bread a week.
Today, someone in a similar job might be making $10 an hour or about $400 a week. If they buy the cheap bread at Walmart, they might be able to bring home around 250 loaves at minimum. But the good old days were better.
But lest I do nothing but pick on my mother, let me consider myself. When I fire up Spotify, I mostly listen to music from years gone by. “They just don’t write them like that anymore.” When I go to church, I think about the glory years when we packed the place and seemed to be able to do no wrong. Of course, that music only seems better because it’s familiar. Those glory years at the church were laced with their fair share of frustration as well.
Is today better or worse than yesterday? Yes. Having lived the last 20 years or so online, I hate the idea of going back to a time when we had to write checks and address envelopes to pay our bills, go to the library to investigate questions, and fumble with DVDs to watch movies.
On the other hand, we didn’t need to worry nearly as much about privacy and cyber security in those days. We could have much greater confidence in the quality of the information we discovered at the library, and the entire nation had a shared sense of culture rather than the fragmented audiences and shattered attention spans of today.
Getting in Tune
Again, is today better or worse than yesterday? It’s really a foolish question to ask. How do you measure the better or worse quality of a time period? Some of us get misty eyed looking backward at a nostalgic day that never existed. Some people look longingly at a progressive utopia that will never materialize as they imagine. And today is just today.
With its good and its bad, today is today. With its own yesterday and tomorrow, today is today. Today, like every today that came before, has its promises and pitfalls, and it looks forward to “that day,” the Day of the Lord, spoken of by most of the prophets.
We’re foolish to look at today and think it inferior to yesterday. Whether it is better or worse is irrelevant. Instead, we need to live today with an awareness of “that day,” which will surely come.
In that dayJoel 3:18
the mountains will drip with sweet wine,
and the hills will flow with milk.
All the streams of Judah will flow with water,
and a spring will issue from the Lord’s house,
watering the Valley of Acacias.