The Danger of Being Sentimental

The Danger of Being Sentimental

Two years after my family had moved back to the United States from Guatemala I got a chance to go back for a visit. Those years growing up in Guatemala were some of the best times of my life. Going back I had an ideal in mind of what it would be like. But when I got there everything was different than I had hoped. The whole trip was a let-down.

I often find myself lying in bed wishing things were as simple as they used to be back in the day. Backpacking around the world. The first few years of marriage. Living in Peru. I look back on those times with a sentimentality that is a bit unrealistic. I tend to forget the bad and think only of the good.

One of the quickest ways to hijack our future is to hold too tightly to sentimental feelings of the past. I love tradition and we should honor the past, but it should never become our idol.

I’ve seen a dangerous sentimentality from parents who want their kids to follow in their footsteps in taking over the family business, going to a certain school, or pursuing a certain path in life. They pressure and manipulate their kids. They hold onto their ideal so strongly that they create division between them and their kids.

Sentimentality ruins churches. Formerly thriving congregations die because they love the shell of what was. They won’t adapt. The congregation dwindles and people complain that people just “don’t want the truth anymore.” In reality, they have held onto traditions and sentimentality, not truth.

Change is life’s only constant.

I think that’s part of what Jesus was talking about when he said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined.” (Mark 2:22) New wine is constantly expanding. If the container is too brittle it will break. If you aren’t flexible and open you’ll miss out on something fresh God has in store for your life.

God never changes. But he regularly works in unique ways. He’s creative like that. When we get too sentimental about how it was in the past we risk missing out on a new way God may want to reach the world.

Stay flexible. Never stop learning. Don’t hold too tightly to sentimental ideals of what it “should be”. God is always working in your life. Often he will show up and work in ways you least expect.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19