I had this joke book I absolutely loved when I was little. The jokes were corny, came with great illustrations, and were absolutely perfect for my 8-year-old brain.
Some of my favorite entries were...
What time is it when the elephant sits on your fence?
Time to get a new fence.
Why did the baseball player throw his alarm clock?
Because he wanted to see time fly.
Where did the general keep his armies?
In his sleevies.
But for some odd reason, the joke that captured my imagination the most was accompanied by a drawing of a cowboy riding his trusty steed across the desert away from a town. The cowboy was sitting backwards in his saddle looking longingly at the town he had just left.
The joke read...
Why did the cowboy ride his horse backwards?
Because he wanted to see where he had been.
I probably told that joke (if one can even call it a joke) a thousand times between the ages of eight and eleven. My parents and my siblings suffered the brunt of my joke telling prowess. And, in case you were wondering, I was indeed quite possibly the most annoying little brother ever!
As I have grown older, I have noticed that many of us actually try to live life a little like this comical cowboy. We spend much of our time looking back over our lives, not just to see where we have been, but in an attempt to relive certain moments that are trapped in our memories. It seems as though we are stuck living life in reverse.
Of course, we all have many great memories that can be wonderful to reflect upon, many mistakes from our past that can inform decisions in our future, and many lessons learned that must not ever be forgotten. However, when we find ourselves fixed backward in our saddle with our gaze locked only on where we have been it is easy to fall victim to the dangerous pitfall of regret.
Regret over bad decisions made and positive choices not made.
Regret over the way in which life was lived and opportunities missed.
Regret that life isn't what it once was.
Life lived only in reverse is the enemy of hope. Hope moves confidently in only one direction - forward.
Without hope, there is no vision for the possibilities of a new tomorrow.
Without hope, there is no reason to cast a vision for what could be.
Without hope, there is no reason to turn around in our saddles to see the wonder of today.
We are called to be people who live in the glorious freedom of hope. And this hope is not wishful thinking. This hope is the unabashed certainty that the future into which we are living can and will be better. This hope is not some stagnant fantasy but courageous action. This hope rests in the steadfast love of God who moves us beyond ourselves into our present and beyond.
Turn around in your saddle.