The Rearview Mirror of Life
The Metamorphyx Journey - Part II
“Life can only be understood backward,” said Søren Kierkegaard, “but it must be lived forward.” Think about it . . . in that one sentence Kierkegaard captures more about the way we should live life than a dozen lectures and books on the topic.
I first encountered Kierkegaard’s wisdom in 1998, and the Danish theologian-philosopher deeply influenced my thinking. I call his jewel of wisdom the “rearview mirror of life” and I use that expression throughout the pages of Metamorphyx. Here’s a firsthand look at the principle . . . don’t miss its life change implications.
Some years ago, my good friend Jim, and I decided to take a week off, fly to Alaska, and backpack through Denali National Park. Our aspiration was to scale North America’s highest peak. Denali dominates the landscape north of Anchorage, rising 20,310 feet above sea level. We saw the trek as an exciting mid-life challenge. The Alaskan park ranger saw it otherwise. He cited a frightening scarcity of common sense by two novice hikers who lacked essential mountain climbing skills. He nixed our application.
Not discouraged, we redirected our climbing aspirations to the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies. That shaved off about seven thousand feet of mid-life challenge. At the base camp, we plotted our ascent. Day one’s trek left us utterly exhausted. Day two was no walk in the park either. But day three was the killer! With the continental summit in view, our rudimentary map-reading skills led us straight up massive rock fields that extracted every available ounce of energy we packed. At times, I even found myself crawling up the steep escarpments to prevent tumbling over backward. We pondered admitting defeat but pressed on.
When we finally reached the summit, all discouragement melted like sunburned ice and we reveled in the late-afternoon victory. We breathed in the brisk mountain air and marveled at the magnificent vistas to the east and west. We then contemplated our descent—which we needed to hasten before darkness set in.
And then we saw it.
There in plain view from the mountaintop was a well-groomed trail that snaked its way alongside the vicious rock fields that had taken us all day to conquer. We had completely missed it on the way up. That, my fellow travelers, is a snapshot of the rearview mirror of life. A tough ascent in a chapter of life . . . and then a new direction forward revealed by the life experience lesson.
Rearview mirror perspective is a source of wisdom for life change. Jim and I hiked down the Rockies on a different path than we had chosen on the way up. That’s the value of understanding life backward and living it forward. It’s also the signature of a life learner aiming to embrace life experience . . . making well-informed life change decisions . . . and using those lessons to re-direct one’s pathway on the rugged climb of life.
Think about this on your personal pathway of life. If you have no sense that you’re being guided on the journey by the Divine Author of your circumstances—be they positive or difficult—then you’re no better off than Alice in Wonderland.
Alice, you may recall, was traveling down the road in Lewis Carroll’s iconic novel when she paused to ask the Cheshire Cat directions. The sassy cat (they’re all that way!) answered Alice’s question with one of his own. “Well, where are you going?” Alice didn’t know! So, Mr. Cat shrewdly advised her, “Well, my dear, then any road will get you there!”
Friends, don’t travel like Alice. Any road will not lead you to fulfilling life purpose; there are too many off ramps to nowhere. Instead, take all God has ordained for you in this life and dwell on their life change implications through your rearview mirror of life. Then, live life forward with a bold new pursuit of life purpose. You can be assured of this: the wider you open the door to personal life change; the wider God will open your door to fulfilling life purpose.