This past week I was forced to reminisce about my past physical capacities as I cramped up while attempting to fix some plumbing problems. I remembered how much easier it was to quickly jump up from a sitting position than it is now. Reminiscence, recall, remembrance and retrospect all refer to the contemplation, reflection and evaluation of the past. This mental survey can cause one to smile or wince depending upon the event.
When faced with challenges to his authority as an Apostle, Paul is forced to list his sufferings for the gospel. He was imprisoned, flogged, stoned, shipwrecked, sleepless and in constant dangers, yet in retrospect he said, “…I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor 11:12-33) (2 Cor 12:9). When he looked back in retrospect he also put things in perspective. He reminds us that, “…though the outward person is wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Cor 4:16). As he sees this happening he also says, “…if this earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven…” (2 Cor 5:1).
Unless retrospection becomes a pity party, and then an obsession, its judicious use can help us assess our spiritual progress, or lack thereof. Once again, however, the Apostle Paul points out a better plan, “Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead…” I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Php 3:13-14). Paul does look back in retrospect when recalling the love and growth of the various congregation he has visited. Nevertheless, like Paul, Christians today need to, “…fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb 12:2). Retrospection can sometimes help us to alter our present spiritual conduct, whereas introspection can help us maintain a steady march towards our heavenly goal.