Devotional — We can’t help looking back

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 7, 2023

Do you take things for granted, too? Well, of course you do. We all have this tendency, but the end of one year/beginning of another year is a time when this usually comes more into focus. We take inventory and reminisce and grieve and hope especially at this time. There are so many “end of the year” reviews, and we ourselves cannot help but look back to see what our last year entailed, also. This is why January is called January – for the Roman god of doorways, Janus. He was literally two-faced with one going forward and one back. I’d rather not infringe on copyrights, so I will leave it to you to search an image, if you’d like to see one. At this time, we look ahead but cannot help also looking back. It is the looking back part that exposes what was taken for granted. 

It is so challenging to be as present in the moment as we should. We get distracted or we assume we will be able to attend to this or that another day. To that end, we too often neglect what is more important. This is another way to read the parable of the rich man in Luke 12 who builds bigger barns to hold his harvest but never lives to see the benefit. It is easy to read that passage and condemn the accumulation of wealth for wealth’s sake, but it is also about neglecting what important. The rich man took for granted that he would have time for other important things: people, occasions, responsibilities, and even his faith. He is not presented as a wicked man, just focused on the wrong things. 

When we fall into that trap of misplaced focus, we lose those moments that we really wish we had shared. Sadly, we may never get a second chance with some of those, but there are others that we might still be able to capture. I for one am looking into 2023 with greater intent to hold what is more important with both hands. I want to be more aware of God’s value working itself out in my life through the people and experiences around me. Maybe you have never gotten lost in distractions, or maybe you have never tried to try to hurry up a burdensome “now” to get to a better time – as if the grass is really going to be greener next week. I doubt I’m alone in this, but what should be our focus, then?

Neighbors. Community. Grace. The Kingdom of God. Tikkun Olam. Mercy. Understanding and Forgiveness. Loving the Other. Finding Jesus in the Other. 

The world is rushing by. If you have children, this is easiest to see in them. But we do not have to let it get by without the attention our Lord invites. Join me in holding 2023 with hands and eyes and a heart wide open. Blessings to you in a new year.

Rev. Dr. Peter Smith is the pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at