I don’t know how I ended up with the ball at my feet, but I know what happened next. Running down the middle of the gym I passed to my teammate on the right side. The single defender turned to face him as he passed it right back to me. The pass was behind me (probably because I’m so fast) so I had to turn and take the ball with my right foot, tipping it behind me and spinning so that I was facing the net. I knew this keeper always ran and dove for the ball when you got too close. When he took a step towards me I slipped it past him and into the corner of the net. I turned around and did my signature celebration: no celebration. I don’t like making a fool of myself and when my celebration is muted it makes the other team think that a goal like that is just routine (even though it’s totally not routine).
I think about that moment every few months. I’m not even sure if that’s exactly how it happened, but that’s how I remember a goal I scored while playing futsal in high school. Of course, I had some pretty bad games and some horrible disappointments. But I’d prefer not to remember those moments.
Like Scott Pilgrim, I only seem to remember the sunshine and roses when I’m reminiscing, while conveniently forgetting all the bad stuff. In the comics, Scott Pilgrim’s memories of past relationships are isolated to all the good moments, while the bad ones are conveniently filtered out. I think the word for that feeling is a nostalgia; a longing to relive moments in the past that feel way better than real life.
For a while I felt guilty about my nostalgic thoughts because they make the present seem dull and disappointing in comparison. Nostalgia often hits me when family gathers for a holiday. The familiar smells wafting from the kitchen and the same decorations sitting in the same place as last year trigger memories. I can’t help but create unrealistic expectations based on holidays of the past. Often the holidays fall short of those memories, or come to an end just as they were getting good. I feel bad because I think my nostalgia makes me want more from life than it can deliver.
Nostalgia makes me feel like I’m living my life wrong. Didn’t Jesus say that he came to give us life and life abundantly? If my life isn’t living up to these expectations; if I’m feeling discontent then there’s probably something wrong about how I’m relating to God, right? Nostalgia makes me feel like I’m not living an abundant life so maybe nostalgia is the problem. Maybe I need to stop dwelling on the joys of the past because they make the present seem so lifeless.
When I think about it, though, I’m not really desiring to relive the past. I know that if I did actually relive the past I would be disappointed because it wouldn’t live up to the expectations I have. How I remember those feelings isn’t exactly how life felt at the time. I know that, yet I still long for it. I’m not actually longing for specific moments. I’m longing for family, for joy, for accomplishment, for satisfaction, for freedom from boredom and fatigue. In short, nostalgia is a longing for a perfect place.
As Christians, we have hope that this place does exist. Christ has promised us that he is preparing a place for us in heaven. What exactly it will look like, I have no idea. However, I do know it will be place where these longings I have in nostalgia will be fulfilled. I will have a perfect family, experience fullness of joy, accomplish more than I could ever imagine, and be satisfied forever. Heaven will not be boring and I won’t get tired of it. There’s a place that exists that will fulfill every longing I have.
Nostalgia used to make me feel disappointed about the present. It created unrealistic expectations for this life. Now I’m trying to lean into those feelings and truly experience them for what I believe they are; longings for heaven. When I think about a past Christmas I can look forward to a wonderful family and delicious food in heaven. When I think about the beauty of a sunrise I saw in the past, I can look forward to beholding the glory of God. When I think about that goal I scored in a futsal game back in highschool, I can look forward to an eternity of satisfaction in Christ.