I have a good friend, Jim Horsley, who once said, "When your memories exceed your dreams, you are headed for the grave." In other words, your best days are ahead. Living with this mindset is really the only way to truly live.
Jim, whom I greatly admire both as a pilot and as a man, flew two hundred combat missions off the carrier Midway during the Vietnam War. He then flew with the US Navy's Blue Angels from 1980 to 1981. Jim's aviation resume of accomplishments in combat and precision flying is one few can rival. A pilot myself, I have always attempted to pry out one of his many riveting combat or Blue Angel flying stories, in hopes of relishing the details of his vast experiences of high adventure. But when asked if he'd share a story or two, Jim would often quote, "When your memories exceed your dreams, you are headed for the grave," and then talk about something else. He would rarely share from his stories of high-speed adventure.
In Jim's story, the pursuit of his faith in God followed one of the final air shows he performed with the Blue Angels in front of 750,000 people in Washington state’s Puget Sound. It was one of his best performances, with near perfect weather conditions and a record crowd that enthusiastically worshipped the prowess of the Blue Angels. In a moment of feeling the highest adoration and success for his skills and talents, Jim found himself standing alone in front of a mirror, asking himself, "Is this all there is to life?" Something greater was calling to the emptiness he felt inside.
Seeing that all the accomplishment of his flying could not fill the emptiness inside him, Jim left his flying career and soon discovered what it meant to have faith in Christ and find his validation in God. He eventually became the development director for World Vision and went back to Hanoi, bringing humanitarian aid and the gospel to the people who were once our enemies and whom he’d bombed in Hanoi during the Vietnam war. To my point—Jim is looking ahead to where God is taking him, with the knowledge that regardless of what has happened in the past, God is bringing him, His beloved, into better things and into a larger story (Rom 8:28).
If we live in the memories of the past, we limit where God can take us in the days ahead. I’ve known this to be true when I find myself discouraged about how the current things in my life look. I then begin thinking about things in the past, how much better they were and how I long for those times. It is such a stealthy ploy of the enemy to cause us to burn up the days of our lives longing for the past, when God is always moving us toward a larger story where we have an invitation and authority to bring His Kingdom.
The past is good, as it defines so much in our lives and is a place to go for the context of our healing and restoration, but God doesn’t want us to live there. The story of the gospel is God bringing restoration and His Kingdom to us, and we are invited to live in that rhythm with Him. So I choose to agree with my good friend Jim. Indeed! My best days are ahead.