The Way Back is the Way Forward

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For as long as I can remember, I have loved historical documentaries. At times it feels like I could get lost in the stories told by Ken Burns, or the books written by David McCullough. As a little boy growing up in Virginia, I went on field trips to old Civil War battlefields and learned about the past through trips to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. When I went to college in Richmond, VA (VCU), the very house I lived in was built in 1862. History was all around me.

As a kid, I had heard others say, “don’t dwell on the past.” I couldn’t help it, though. Something was calling to me when I visited those places—Gettysburg, Bull Run, and Fredericksburg—I was somehow trying to feel what it would have been like to be in the battle, to fight for a nation in its adolescence. It’s often said that if you want to know where you are going, you have to know first of where you came from.

Over time, I have learned that the way back may be the way forward. Yes, it is an oxymoron. It doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s counterintuitive. Yet, to me, it does make sense. Those stories, with their characters and the decisions they had to make, have much to teach us. The stories can reveal to us what we are made of and the legacy that we have inherited (good or bad). The characters can show us why we make certain decisions and even help us understand why we believe what we believe.

I have come to realize that this all translates to our personal lives as well. The history of our lives matter. The history shows us parts of our marrow. The history of our lives helps to define our fears and passions. This might be where it comes full circle. Most of us look into our old stories and first see the failures, disappointments, and the dark spaces. Those things are there, but what else exists within that history? What are the things that we need to be reminded of? I’m nostalgic like that. Is it a song, or a movie, or maybe an old friend that you need to be reminded of? It doesn’t take much to feel that longing for what was a stronger time in your life. Maybe you need to be reminded of the confidence that is hard wired into your heart, yet in this present season, you can’t seem to find it.

Just the other day I was helping a friend out at his house. Something he said reminded me of a movie I hadn’t seen for twenty years, but it automatically took me back to a younger time where I was fearless, more filled with faith, and less worried about the future. We laughed at the lines in the movie and shared some good memories of watching this film with friends way back when.

Was it good to laugh? Yes. Was it good to connect with that friend and the movie that had moved both of us? Yes. But the best part for me was that in the deep parts of my heart, the memory inspired me to live more fearlessly, passionately and with less worry. That’s the true gold in our personal histories. It’s not a place to live, but it is a place to draw life from for the battles we face today. 

About the Author: Cory Smith is the Executive Director of Training Ground (TG). TG has locations in Colorado Springs, CO, and Sarasota, FL and their team provide evaluated real life experiences, mentoring, and intentional Biblical teaching in the context of work, wilderness, and worship. They train and establish young men in Christ as future leaders in families, the workplace, and ministry. Cory enjoys fly fishing, wearing flip flops and shorts, and hanging with friends in his garage.


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