The Veil of Nostalgia: When the “Good Old Days” Mask the Greatness of Today

There is an old church right smack dab in the middle of North Dallas that seems both out of place and perfectly situated right off the busy Tollway. I noticed it a few years ago while on a walk. As soon as I saw it, I felt like I’d been transported back in time. I could just imagine an old country wedding, with a freshly picked daisy bouquet and a hand-made wedding dress. I could almost hear one more rousing verse of “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” as the smell of Sunday chicken, green beans and cornbread waft along the gentle breeze, transporting me back to a simpler (seemingly better) time.

Although I first stumbled upon the old church randomly, I began to make intentional pilgrimages a few times a week to this landmark of a bygone era. I was drawn to the preserved holiness and the perceived innocence of the time period. I’ve texted my family and friends countless pictures of the old church at sunrise, sunset, with clear blue skies, or ominous storm clouds as a backdrop to its beauty. I know they love receiving the pictures even if they don’t act like it. I know.

For months after discovering the old church, I would pray at its always-locked doors, peak in every window and read the historical marker over and over. I spent a lot of time at its doorstep, always wondering what it would be like to go beyond the threshold. One day as I was walking, I stopped to just gaze at the church and a woman approached me and said, “Would you like to go inside?”

My eyebrows raised and my eyes got big. I am not overstating when I say I felt like I’d won the lottery. Go inside? It’s just too good to be true, but YES. The woman introduced herself as the president of the preservation society that owns the old church. She just happened to be coming to check on things and noticed me, probably like a candy store owner notices a kid with their nose pressed against the store window. She likely had no idea that she held the keys to my many day dreams about this aged, beautiful, white clapboard piece of sacred history.

The door creaked as I walked inside. I was in awe at its simple, timeless elegance. I was certainly underdressed in my activewear and immediately wished I’d made a wiser clothing choice like a floral print dress, white gloves and bonnet (as if I own any of those). Beautiful wooden pews, restored original hardwood floors, the tempting pull rope that made the church bells ring out across the land – I had entered a hallowed time capsule. As I looked around, the kind woman from the preservation foundation gave me an overview of the history of the church, the land, and the early settlers who were trying not only to survive, but thrive, in this area in the late 1800s. It all sounded idyllic and left me pining for “the good old days” that I had never known, but somehow wanted to go back to.

I have continued my intentional pilgrimages to the old church to bask in her beauty and her glory days. Just last week I found myself at the doorstep of the old church, but this time it was different. Instead of longing for the way things were 120 years ago, I got a very clear sense that God was telling me to focus on the present. My visions of the bygone era were veiled by a romanticized idea based on old hymn books and church bells. God reminded me that He chose this time in history for me to live, not the late 19th century on a prairie in the middle of rural Texas… as charming as it all sounds.

No, my time is now (Acts 17:26). But it wasn’t just that God wanted to snap me back to reality, He had something else to show me – something to excite me about this present day. He reminded me that in this generation He is revealing Himself like no other time in history.

Never in the history He created, has God provided so much information, so easily available to His people. These are just a few things God impressed upon me at the doorstep of the old church:

  • Today every translation of the Bible is available online (in written and audio form) in more than a thousand languages. What the printing press did in the 15th century to get the Bible into the hands of the people, the Internet is offering the 21st century – a millionfold.
  • This generation has no shortage of great Bible teachers to fuel their understanding of God’s Word. From sermon notes to YouTube videos, great Bible teaching is available with just a few keystrokes. Add to that, the Bible teacher/pastor does not even need to be alive to continue giving their sermons (Billy Graham, G.K. Chesterton, Oswald Chambers and come to mind). The good folks back in that old church heard from maybe two or three pastors their whole lives – this generation has unlimited access to great teaching that wasn’t attainable 20 years ago, much less 120 years ago.
  • If someone questions how or if the Bible is true, they can research to no end to find answers. Or, they can look to world-renowned apologists who have already done the work like Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) or James Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity). Both men are former atheists who set out to disprove Christianity and both men came to the only conclusion their intense research allowed: The Bible is true and Jesus is who He said He was. And their books can be on that questioning person’s doorstep the next day or downloaded immediately.
  • It has never been easier to participate in The Great Commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Airline travel means we can go to the ends of the Earth, taking The Good News with us, with more ease than at any other time in history.
  • It’s almost impossible to keep up with the findings of archaeological digs and their discoveries that validate the Bible. Just a few months ago I was writing about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem. As I was researching, I found that archaeologists dug up and found the exact wall in 2007 – as it had been described by Nehemiah in 445 B.C., thereby providing physical evidence of God’s Word. I started looking into other archaeological findings and it’s astounding what is being unearthed as a confirmation to the truth of the Bible – no other generation has been privy to this information.

What a great time to be alive! It is fun to reminisce about the “good old days,” whether it’s the late 1800s, your own childhood, or back to a time when your kids used to call it “basghetti.” But what God is doing now is exciting, and I don’t want to miss it. We are living in a treasure trove of information and substantiation that has not been available to any other generation. I’ll still take walks to the old church, but instead of pining away for its bygone era, I will thank God for all that He is doing in this day.

Dear Lord, thank You for TODAY. What a joy it is to live at a time when You are showing us more of Who You are. Lord, open our eyes to see You. The Bible tells us that You have revealed Yourself to every generation through nature (Psalm 8:3-4); our conscience (Romans 2:14-15); Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:27); and the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16). For this generation You have been extravagantly generous in Your availability and given us even MORE. Lord, do not let me mistake these advances in technology as mere modes of entertainment and use them like an opioid to dull my senses. Rather, let these advances heighten my understanding of and love for You. Lord, thank You for wanting to be known and letting us know You. Praise Your Holy Name. Amen.

Photo credit: Me (taken on one of my many walks to this great old church)

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