995) Those Were the Days

(from a previous post)

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THOSE WERE THE DAYS  by Mary Hopkin

Hear it at:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyaTIXdN5fI

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And think of all the great things we would d0.

Chorus:
Those were the days, my friend
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I’d see you in the tavern
We’d smile at one another and we’d say…  Chorus…

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me?  Chorus…

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh, my friend, we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same.  Chorus…

     Those Were the Days is based on a Russian song written over 80 years ago.  It was translated by an Englishman Gene Raskin, and sung by Welsh singer Mary Hopkin.  It rose to #2 on the American charts in 1968.  I can still remember hearing that song at a party in 1968 and thinking, “Someday I will be looking back on these days, just like the songs says.”  Now I am.

     The song sings of the swift passage of years, the dying of dreams, and the sharing of memories with old friends.  You don’t have to be very old to begin relating to some of that.  I once heard of a 12-year-old saying how Christmas wasn’t as much fun as ‘when he was a kid.’  Twelve years old, and he was already missing the good old days.

     This is a sad song, and you have probably felt that same sadness.  She catches herself in the mirror; ‘in the glass I saw a strange reflection, was that lonely woman really me?’  I once saw the reflection of a chubby old guy in a store window, and then was unpleasantly surprised to realize it was me.  ‘Am I looking that old?,’ I wondered.  In the song she has abandoned her dreams and plans; ‘we lost our starry notions on the way.’  When you are in your 20’s you have big plans for the future, and then, before you know it, you find yourself thinking about how to wind it down.  You graduate from high school and think, ‘Oh boy, I am going to do this and that, and I am going to go here and there, and do a whole bunch of other stuff someday;” and then pretty soon it’s “Well, too late for this, and, no time for that, anymore.”

     We can all relate to this song because we all have the same basic frustration with time.   We never have enough of it, it goes by too fast, and, we are always so surprised by its passage.  “Was that two years ago already?,” we ask.  Or, “It still seems like 2015 was just beginning, and here it is 2016.”   Or on every birthday, “Wow, 61 years old!  Where did all that time go?”  We all know the feeling– even the 12 year olds.  We look back longingly on the good old days, we are irritated by the swift passage of time, and we have anxiety about the shrinking future ahead of us.  But WHY?, we should ask ourselves.  Why do we have such a problem with time?  Why does it surprise us and bother us and scare us?  Why can’t we just be content to live in the moment, like our dogs?  We fuss and fret about the past that is gone, and we are anxious and worried about a future we may not even be here for.  Why does our heart ache when we hear a song like Those Were the Days?

     The Biblical answer, which makes a lot of sense to me, is that we were not made for the confines of a few years.  We were not created to die at all.  And so our frustration with time is that our hearts were made for eternity, and we just cannot get used to the fact that time will end for us.  We can deny that fact, ignore it, and seek all sorts of diversions; but every once in a while the blinders come off and we grow sad.  We hear of a tragic accident, we lose a loved one, we get an unfavorable report from the doctor, or, we hear a song about the good old days; and we sigh and say “Is this all there is?– Can it really be going by so quickly?”

     In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve rebelled against God by eating from the one tree in the garden that was forbidden, and they were then cast out of the Garden.  But there was another, far better, tree in the garden from which to eat.  Genesis 2:9 says, “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground, trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”  In verse 16 God says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, (including that tree of life) but (God said) you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”  But Adam and Eve did eat of that forbidden tree, and they were cast out of the garden with these words from God in 3:22:  “‘The man has now become like one of us knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and live forever.’  So the Lord banished them…”  Did you get that?  God made us so we could eat from the tree of life and live forever.  We weren’t made for 80 years, we were made to live forever, so it is not going to feel right to live within such limits.

     Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”  Eternity is in our hearts.  This longing points us beyond this limited life and this little world to the God that is above and beyond all time and space. We are made in the image of God, says Genesis; and we have eternity in our hearts, says Ecclesiastes; and that is why we can never reconcile ourselves to the swift passage of time.  The problem is we are homesick, homesick for Eden, a place we have never been, but the place for which our hearts were made.  And God invites us, by faith, into the new Eden he has prepared for us in heaven.  The tree of life from Genesis, the first book in the Bible, appears again in Revelation, the last book of the Bible.  It will be there that the eternal life we were created for will be restored.

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Ecclesiastes 3:11  —  God has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.

Genesis 3:22-23  —  The Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.  He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

Revelation 2:7  —  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

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Teach us to number our days, O Lord, so that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.  Amen.  (Psalm 90:12)

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