On Two Small Words – Over and Next

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An intriguing life philosophy caught my eye while leafing through United Airlines seat back magazine, Hemispheres. I’ve been fascinated ever since. These two words were given by a TV celebrity as his “secret path” to stronger emotional health and longevity of life. His philosophy made strong logical sense. But is there spiritual substance?
Norman Lear, in a 2016 CNBC interview gave what he believed was his “secret” to a long life. Norman observed “...There are two small words that are the most important words in the English language, over and next.” After all, he was an active ninety-three-year-old. Norman pointed out that these two little words are sadly under used as it pertains to emotional stability, and sustainable, practical, anxious-free living. As a movie film producer, Norman realized the potential disaster of lingering in the spotlight of the past show without seriously detracting from the next show. He knew the simple truth that life moves. He realized, as few do, that those “who choose to live in the limelight of the past losses.” Those who choose to “anticipate the future win.” Therein he thought he discovered a momentous life principle. But he didn’t discover something new. He only uncovered a hidden truth and what many miss.
Norman meant that “OVER” suggests ...recognize endings, letting go, releasing resistance to “what is,” acknowledging endpoints, and identifying the past as past. By “NEXT” he meant ...new beginnings, mapping a future, willing to take creative next steps, positive anticipation of the future, and believing in clear spaces for opportunity.
Of course, since Norman Lear is no Christian, let alone of Anabaptist identity, one might rightly ask, “and why should a Jewish, socialistic, atheistic, film producing, political activist, and philanthropist, known as the ‘godfather of comedy television’ teach a Christian what the Bible has already established? Maybe it is as Jesus once allowed, for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. Ouch. Why does the heathen so often bizarrely plagiarize truth? Well, why do people miss it in the first place? Whatever the case, his worldly advice is drawn from Biblical precedent.
Paul penned the Biblical precedent this way, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded... To be thus minded and press toward perfection must certainly be a Christian’s goal. Paul rejected the dependence and security of the past to shape his future and visions. Suppose Paul had lived and believed another way?
Jesus confirmed Paul’s values, no, He prescribed them, He commanded them, and He voiced them. ...no man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. Really! Isn’t that a pretty heavy statement? Did Jesus really think that not following this principle takes away from our entrance into the kingdom of heaven? What about Jesus’ terse reminder, Remember Lot’s wife. Why remember Lot’s wife? What serious mistake had Mrs. Lot made?
Frankly, these two words, over and next, easily teach successful and secular life concepts. The serious problem is that using them on a merely human level for mere human success leads a person toward two equally sad positions. Either toward persistent forlornness and on toward the insane asylum; or its opposite “lovelier” position—tremendous life success which spirals upward toward great riches, leaving in its wake, thirst for more. Both gender an anxious life. They leave us trapped—as buzzards in a low short cage, with freedom just beyond reach and insufficient “takeoff” space to take flight into it—trapped!
In contrast, the Biblical advice of over and next, practiced by faith, in real life situations, and also used for our spiritual future spirals one toward inward peace, eternal reward, and anxious-free living. Strange indeed that the same concepts used for different goals lead to such vastly different endpoints?
We must conclude. Over and next is a Jesus command. When used with an eternal focus, it leads one toward an anxious-free now and confidence in the beyond. It’s the life Jesus commanded. “Living in the past,” and “choosing from the past,” slowly but certainly constructs a hotbed for forlornness, hopeless feelings, and anxious living; we call it depression. The feelings from “living in the past” beg our minds for justice and revenge concerning the hurts it finds there. Its “lovelier” twin, which “lives in the accomplishment of the past” equally steals our vision; we call it success. Building our lives upon the successes of the past make it harder and harder to accept God’s plans for our future.
“Living in hope” in contrast painfully causes one to sell more and retain less. After all, what did Jesus mean when He said, For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
God never intended man to “live in the past,” to relish its supposed security, or to grip tightly onto that which he must one day lose. Yes, today is our moment that connects us with tomorrow. Yet this truth seems too overwhelming since tomorrow never comes—except in the consummation of our eternal reward. We too often run back to the past because the unknown future looks too hard.
Yes, missing the concepts of over and next is a common Christian mistake. While memories and the past play an important role in Christian experience, yet one can neither relive the joy and success nor the sorrow of the past without unneeded repercussions of stress and anxiety.
No wonder anxiety and its mental consequences abound. No wonder serious rest escapes us. No wonder bitterness plagues American and Christian societies. Our affluence begs us to believe we deserve more. When we give in, only one tiny step remains from there to “retaining the past.”
No wonder it is so common to refuse to “let go” of things, money, and success, when in fact, Jesus said doing so is our only hope. Our minds crave the past successes. Security seems to abide there. Retaining and building upon past success seems to be a good answer to our craving.
Our minds want to twist reality, often overplaying the significance of our past joys and deeming our sorrows worse than they really were. Our minds want “closure for past sorrows.” They want justice for past hurts. They seek to dwell unrealistically in our past successes. Our minds want to clutch our past successes by building a bigger empire which only calls for yet more. But more is not a remedy to anxiousness. It is the father of anxiousness—Jesus said so! Letting go is the real answer to anxiousness.
So, let us live over and next for Jesus sake, not for successes sake.
There’s a lesson (or more) in those two words, over and next. What is in those two words for you?