Occasionally, I will hear an old song that resurrects memories in the tender spots of my soul. People and places step out of the shadows and visit with me for a brief moment or two. Does that happen to you, too? If so, you understand what's hard to put into words. Suddenly, without announcement, nostalgia sweeps over me, and I am trapped in its sticky web for an exhilarating experience that's always too brief to satisfy . . . too vivid to ignore . . . too deep to describe . . . too personal to share.

Nostalgia. That abnormal yearning within us to step into the time tunnel and recover the irrecoverable. That wistful dream, that sentimental journey taken within the mind—always traveled alone and therefore seldom discussed. Here's where it sometimes starts:

  • A barefoot walk along a sandy beach
  • A quiet visit to the little place where you grew up
  • Listening to a rippling brook running quietly over the rocks through a misty forest of autumn leaves
  • Singing the song of your alma mater
  • Looking over childhood photos in the family album
  • Watching your now-grown "child" leave home
  • Standing beside the fresh grave of a close, personal friend or relative
  • The smell and sounds of a warm, crackling fireplace
  • Getting alone—all alone—and reading aloud 
  • An old letter, bruised with age, signed by one who really loved you
  • Climbing to the top of a windswept hill -- then standing there, still . . . silent
  • Christmas Eve, late at night, in the room where only the tree lights glisten
  • Lovely poems . . . beautiful melodies
  • Weddings . . . graduations . . . anniversaries
  • Snow . . . sleds . . . toboggans . . . a long, downhill slide
  • Saying goodbye after a memorable visit

Oh, yeah . . . you've been there. I can tell by that smile you're trying to hide.

I suppose this is why I enjoy the holidays so much. The smells from the kitchen, the presence of my loving wife, the chatter of the grandkids, laughter around the supper table . . .  the inexpressible feelings of gratitude to God for my home . . . my country . . . my church . . . and my Savior . . . all converge upon me as nostalgia's net tightens around me holding me close within its imaginary strands of endearment.

I have often wondered how Jesus must have entertained nostalgic feelings as He visited this planet He had originally created. How moving is that statement: "He came to His own" (John 1:11)! You see, when Jesus came as a man, He lived and walked among familiar territory. He was no stranger to this old earth . . . He came "to His own things" (literally). Having returned to His handiwork—my, how nostalgic the journey must have been for Him at times! Because He was not wanted, He was driven to a life of silence, solitude, and simplicity. The hills and the wilderness and the Sea of Galilee became His habitat. It was there He communed best with His Father. It was there He trained His small band of followers. Is it any wonder that the hills and the forest and the waves of the sea still hold us in the grip of nostalgia?

Take a drive sometime during the holidays—even if it's for only an hour. In the stillness of your surroundings, give nostalgia the go-ahead. Let it run free . . . release your mind of all your cares, and see where it takes you. That's one of my treasured pastimes during this season, and I'd like you to enjoy it with me.

If we meet together on one of those back roads of our memories, I will be so pleased—and I promise not to tell a soul. I'm good at keeping nostalgic secrets.

Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved.

About the author


Pastor Chuck Swindoll

Pastor Chuck Swindoll has devoted his life to the accurate, practical teaching and application of God’s Word. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs around the world. Chuck’s leadership as president and now chancellor emeritus of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry.

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