Over the holiday, my wife and I journeyed to another part of the world to participate in some family events. We also enjoyed visiting some old stomping grounds. Some of the places seemed so much smaller than I recall, some a little seedier! Others were much improved. While I was there I reflected on how much I had changed too.
It’s a funny feeling being in a place which used to be home. Old memories, good and bad, come flooding back and one quickly realizes that the past really is past. Things will never be the same again, and that can be cause for pleasure and/or regret.
The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitis recognized this when he said something like: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same water and he’s not the same man.”
It’s rather like being on a journey where there’s no going back. There is of course much in the past from which we can learn, and need to remember, lest we make the same mistakes of former generations. However, there is a difference between remembering and living in the past.
That leaves us with essentially two choices for going forward. We can spend our time regretting what has been lost or changed, longing and wishing for the past; or we can embrace the present and the future, seeing every day and every moment as an opportunity to grow and become better at living life.
St. Paul alluded to this in his Letter to the Philippians: “…the One who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”
Although those words were written to church members in the context of the expansion of their ministries, it also speaks to God’s participation in our ongoing growth as we mature in faith. This means that as we acknowledge the source of our life, we open ourselves to a process of change which we can celebrate and welcome.
There is no better way of doing this than beginning each day with a self reminder that the coming hours are a gift, and to invite God into each moment, each thought, each encounter and each task to be performed; and to end each day with a return to each of its events, giving thanks for the bright ones, offering contrition for our failures and seeking to learn from any mistakes in our deeds and relationships.
In this way we live our lives always in the presence of the Divine who will bless our intentions and our efforts, guard what we have left undone, and give us peace deep within.
Revisiting our past, both immediate and longer, may cause us to be filled with nostalgia and/or regrets. But when we can go back in time to celebrate and learn from the past, recognizing God’s gifts and tracing the ways in which we have grown and been formed, we can face our future, both immediate and longer, with much more hope and confidence!
Rev. Alan Naylor is at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Qualicum Beach