In reading through the Bible chronologically, I was struck by how many times God’s people built altars. It seems like at every significant event, they built a physical altar and made a sacrifice in order to remember God’s faithfulness.
On more than one occasion, people have asked about my regrets leading a local church. There are many things, but one big one is I wish I had looked back more. This is tough for a visionary leader like me, and if you’re a visionary leader, I bet you can relate. It’s normal and natural for me to look forward, and when the deed is done, I’m on to the next thing.
We should have spent as much time celebrating a win on the back end as I spent communicating the vision on the front end. If I spent three weeks announcing something, I should have spent three weeks celebrating it.
One of the reasons I look forward instead of back is because looking forward feels like accomplishing something. It’s a positive motion, and requires my natural ability to communicate. Looking back is more etherial – it’s more stories than points.
But God dropped altars into the life and rhythm of his people – to force them to slow down, look back and remember. God built holidays and festivals and celebrations into their culture to teach them how to look back.
In a world that moves so fast, I think I need to pause and look back more. On successes, failures, memories and moments. We should tell more stories and solidify learning in the process. It’s what I do when I get tighter with my college friends who still live in Florida. We may only see each other once or twice a year, but when we get together, we tell stories of high school and college. The same stories we’ve told over and over again never get old. They are altars of memories.
If you’re a leader, you’re probably doing a good job looking forward. But how are when it comes to looking back. Maybe today is a good day to build an altar.