The Windshield and the Rearview Mirror

Every life has both a windshield and a rearview mirror. That may sound too philosophical and cause some of you to stop reading, but it’s true. In every life, there’s a windshield and a rearview mirror. The way ahead and the wake behind.

Some focus more on the rearview mirror. They focus more on the past and the way things were. But this is problematic. If you focus mostly on the past, you will never be satisfied. If the past was painful or difficult, it will cause you to stay stuck in that pain rather than enjoy what’s before you. If the past was wonderful, it will cause you to minimize what’s before you and be sad that the “good old days” are past.

Some focus more on the windshield. They focus more on where they’re going then on where they’ve been.  This too is problematic. If you focus mostly on where you’re going, you can easily forget the lessons of the past and continue to make some of the same mistakes. Focusing more on where you’re going than where you’ve been can also cause you to ignore what you’re leaving in the wake of your progress. You may not see how your driving is effecting the people in your life or how it could effect your future.

Any good driver know that you have to pay attention to both the windshield and the rearview mirror. What should that look like in your life?

Let’s start with the rearview mirror. If you ignore the rearview mirror you lose sight of where you’ve been and you allow things to sneak up behind you. A lot of who we are and what we do relates to what’s behind us. So if we’re going to make a better way forward, there are three things we need to do with what’s in the rearview mirror:

  • Look at it. – You may not want to look at it, but it’s imperative that you do, because you can’t learn from something you won’t look at.
  • Learn from it. – As best you can, learn why things were the way they were, why things happened as they did, and why you reacted as you did. This will help you understand who you are and what you do in the present. It may be easier to understand things now that you’re down the road a bit, but if not, seek out someone to help you…like a good friend, a pastor, or a counselor.
  • Leave it behind. – Your past will always be a part of your history. You can’t change it or forget it. But if you are willing to look at it and learn from it, then you can make peace with it and leave it where it is…in the past.  

If the view in your rearview mirror is mainly the “the good old days,” you still need to take that view and:

  • Look at it. – Good memories are a blessing. Like a photo album, you should look at the good times and enjoy them.
  • Learn from it. – There’s a reason why those were good times. It’s not that they just randomly happened. Something went into making them happen. Maybe it was making the time, or intentionally getting away, or a host of other things. You need to see if you can learn what went into making those times good so that you might be able to do those things again.
  • Leave it behind. – I know it seems strange to say, “Leave those good times behind.” But if you clutch onto those “glory days,” it’s less likely that your heart and mind will be free to create new and maybe better “glory days.” You can remember the good times and enjoy them, but don’t sacrifice the now for the then. If all you do is look in the rearview mirror, then you’re liable to have a wreck…even if you’re looking at good things.

Which brings us to looking through the windshield. When I was learning to drive, the instructor always told us, “Keep your eyes on the road ahead. This will help you drive in a smooth straight line.” It was his way of saying  it’s important to look at where you’re going if you’re going to get there safely. That’s especially important in these days of texting, GPS, and all the other distractions that can pull our eyes off the road. 

It’s the same with life. If you don’t focus on where you’re going, you can easily wander over the road, rather than staying in your lane. If you don’t focus on where you’re going, you can easily get distracted by a host of other things…both good and bad. How many people get to the end of their life and find they’ve not gotten to where they wanted to be, simply because they failed to keep their focus on where they wanted to go.

So it’s important to look through the windshield and keep our eyes on where we want to go. But like my driving teacher used to say…”While your keeping your eyes on the road, don’t forget to check your mirrors.” It was his way of saying, Pay attention to the way ahead and the wake behind.

This is true on another level also…

Scripture tells us to look through the windshield and focus on the road ahead. In Philippians 3:13, Paul speaks of “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…”

But scripture also reminds us of the importance of checking our mirrors. In Deuteronomy 32:7 we’re told to “remember the days of old.” And in Psalm 143:5, the psalmist says, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done…”

We are all on our way to an ultimate destination that requires we both see where we’ve been and focus on where we’re going.

How’s your driving? Which is harder for your to do…keep your eyes on the road ahead, or be mindful of what’s behind you? Leave a comment and let us know how you’re doing.

Copyright © 2015 Bret Legg