Near the end of Toni Morrison’s novel, Beloved, Paul D., a freed slave, tells Sethe, a woman who escaped slavery but remains haunted by her memories of it: “Me and you, we got more yesterday than anybody. We need some kind of tomorrow.”
We can be chained to yesterday by regrets over opportunities we’ve missed, by hurts we’ve suffered and inflicted, by resentment over unfairness we’ve experienced, by grief over losses we’ve sustained, by guilt over sins we’ve committed, or by shame over inadequacies we’ve felt.
We can also be tied to the past by the golden strands of remembered happiness. Yesterday is our Camelot, our Never-land, or our Land of Oz. Sometime before now, things were better. Somewhere other than here, we felt more at home.
Many people spend their present moments on the past. They live in the pages of their high school yearbooks, remembering when they were young people with promise rather than middle-aged adults with a track-record. They sort-through a “hope chest” filled with love-letters from a relationship once filled with romance and laughter. They pore over portraits of their children from days when the problems were simpler and the delights were plainer to see.
We can be bound to the past either by disappointment or nostalgia. Either way, our lives are almost completely about “yesterday” and hardly at all about “today” or “tomorrow.”
A friend of mine described a profound and simple experience she had with Jesus. In a moment of quiet reverie—one of those rare times when she was still and quiet—Jesus appeared to her, saw that she was carrying a cross-shaped burden of worries and fears, put his shoulder under the load with her, and took her hand. Her burden then felt so light, and the joy in Jesus’ eyes was so bright, that she felt surging in her enough energy, not just to walk, but to run, to skip, and to dance.
They did. She and Jesus, like small children who delight in the present, skipped and sang down the road. Some of us fear that we have run out of road, that we have only the miles we’ve already covered, and that yesterday was the last bright day. We worry that the burden we carry will keep us from making the rest of the journey, because we’re not strong enough to carry it.