Posted by: R Jonathan Gewirtz | June 13, 2018

Looking Back

All set? Comfy? Buckled? Great.

Yeah, it’s rough out there. It’s nice when you have a comfortable car to ride in, out of the heat or the cold or the rain. What’s that blue butterfly on my rear view mirror? It’s funny you should ask. There’s a great story behind that.

BlueButterflyOne day, I had taken my girls to the doctor, probably for well-visits, or more likely for shots, since those are generally MY responsibility. After behaving well, my daughters, then about two-and-a-half and four-and-a-half respectively, received a number of stickers.

While showing each other the various ones they had and discussing trading, my little one picked up a pretty blue butterfly and declared, “Daddy gets a sticker!” She handed it forward, and I affixed it to my mirror. I knew that way she would see me “use” it, and I could remove it more easily than I could from the dashboard.

But I never did remove it. Every time I look at it, I see that sweet little girl, overflowing with love and generosity, feeling that Daddy is good enough and loved enough that he deserves to have a sticker and she’s going to make sure he gets it.

Sometimes, when she’s driving me crazy, or when she misbehaves, I’ll look at the sticker and start to calm down. It takes me back and reminds me that deep down, she’s genuinely loving, caring, and generous.

Recently, that little sticker gave me an insight into a famous phrase. Jeremiah 2:2 tells us that HaShem says, “I remember the kindness of your youth, the love of when you were a bride, when you followed Me in the desert, in a land that was not sown.”

Let’s think about that. What does it help to remember that someone USED to be good to you, when now they’re rotten? HaShem remembers us when we were devoted to Him, and therefore takes us back even after we’ve betrayed Him. How does that work?

Before I explain, let me tell you another story. One day, my wife called me very upset. My pre-teen daughter had balked at eating some sort of green vegetable which was served for dinner and simply refused to taste it. The situation devolved into both parties getting upset. When my wife told me about it, I started laughing.

Astounded at my insensitivity to her frustration, my wife asked me what exactly I found so funny. I paused, then said, wistfully, “We’re back to corn and sweet potatoes,” referencing the only baby food we had been able to get our beloved baby girl to eat when she was an infant. Not peas, not green beans, nothing green – just the small orange jars of corn and sweet potatoes.

My wife’s heart melted and she couldn’t be mad at her baby anymore. It wasn’t her fault; this was how she was made from the beginning!

Just like my sticker, it reminded us of what lie inside of our daughter in her youngest years, and that it still existed inside her today. And that’s the message of the verse.

HaShem says, “I remember when you were enamored with Me; when you clamored to be close to Me. I know that though we’ve been driven far apart, that desire of your youth still resides within you and can resurface with great force.” Even though we think we’ve changed permanently, deep down, He knows we really haven’t.

I like to think that it has broader applications too. Remember when you were young and idealistic? When you thought you could change the world and were willing to give your all to make things happen? Remember when you found joy in the simple things in life, and you weren’t concerned about “stuff” or jealous of others? You might have to go way back to when you were a toddler – when playing with a big box and your imagination could be an all-day event.

Think about the people in your life who give you a hard time, or make things difficult for you. Maybe it’s a parent or grandparent who needs care, and you’re feeling resentful. Maybe it’s a spouse who you feel was nasty or insensitive to you. Go back to when that person made your life sweet, or when they were caring and good, and see if you can bring back some of the good feelings and be forgiving.

See, what I’ve realized is that it’s not too late to look back and see that inner child, the one who was so sweet and innocent. It’s not too late to bring back the kid who was so proud to read the Aleph-Bais or recite a Dvar Torah he learned in school. You can still find the little girl who shared so nicely and was happy when someone else got something she liked; who wasn’t jaded or cynical.

So, that’s why I keep that sticker there, to remind me that all our potential isn’t just in the rear view mirror, it still lies ahead of us, as long as we keep it in our sights. That doesn’t only go for us, but for everyone – HaShem said so.

Well, I’m stopping here, but at least you’re a little closer to your destination now. Safe travels, and just keep taking this road straight ahead. You’ll get where you want to get; I’m sure of it.


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