I was meeting with some church leaders recently and I said, “The past helps to shape our present but it need not define our future.”
One of the people there asked, “Who said that?”
My answer was not intended to be flippant: “Me.”
They wanted to know who I was quoting, but it was one of the rare occasions when something possibly profound came out of my mouth and I was not aware that I was quoting anyone else. I have since done an internet search for that sentence and while there are others who have written similar sentences and thoughts I am not aware of anyone who has said it in exactly the same way. (If I did inadvertently quote someone else please let me know and I will gladly attribute it to them.)
I have pondered this sentence since: partly because I could not believe I had said something that made sense and sounded like I was quoting from someone intelligent; and partly because I have reflected further on whether it is true. I still think it is. And it can be liberating.
A past success may have enabled us to be in a particular role or enjoy a measure of wealth or fame. But those things can fade if all we do is live on those past glories. I am a long-suffering supporter of a football team that has won domestic and European trophies at the highest level. But the last major trophy was well over 30 years ago and while we still rejoice in that success it is no guarantee of success or survival in the future.
A past failure may have shaped who we are today. But that does not mean that we have to be marked by that failure for the future. We don’t have to wallow in shame and self-pity forever. One of the joys of being a follower of Jesus is that he is in the business of offering forgiveness, fresh starts and freedom from past failure.
Apparently there’s a saying in countries where there unpaved roads that develop deep ruts in wet weather – choose your rut carefully as you will be in it for a long time. Once your car wheels have entered a rut you will find it difficult to escape it. The idea is that whether it’s the recent or distant past, events in our life will have shaped and define who we are and where we are today.
But need not remain in a rut. Grace, apologising, seeking and giving forgiveness, reconciliation and renewed hope can help us leave a rut of past failure. Learning from the past, looking with optimism, seeking fresh vision and a willingness to grow can help us leave a rut of past success.
Be blessed, be a blessing
Perhaps because of the stacks of boxes and tins of chocolates in the stores for Christmas I was reminded today of what Forrest Gump famously said: “My momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.'”
(I know Forrest Gump is a fictional character in a film, so in fact it was the scriptwriters and author articulated by Tom Hanks, but that is not such a striking statement!)
The quotation from his momma is cute, it’s moving but it’s not true because most boxes of chocolates have a card or a ‘menu’ that shows what the different chocolates will be.
I wonder if a more accurate statement comparing life to a box of chocolates might be: “Life is like a box of chocolates, sooner or later we all come to a sticky end.”
But that’s a bit maudlin for this time of year isn’t it?
However, there is some truth in what ‘momma’ said – there is uncertainty in life, particularly about the future. We all live in the present. We can’t change that without a Tardis (search for Doctor Who online if you don’t know what one of those is). We are unable to move from living in the present moment, even though that moment is constantly moving along the line we call ‘time’. It is now a different time from when you started reading this bloggage (and some of you may be wondering why you have wasted that time!) but you are still in the present. We are shaped and affected by events that are now in the past, and we plan for the future, but we are bound to live only in the present. And we don’t know for certain what the future holds for us. We never know what we’re gonna get.
One more reflection on chocolates (or assortments of sweets generally). I usually find that there is one or more of the assorted confectionery that I don’t really like (especially coffee or cherry). But they are there anyway, mixed in with the ones I do like.
In that sense life is like a box of chocolates – it’s a mixture of things we like and things we don’t. But instead of complaining about the chocolates we don’t like in our life, how about we ask the One who gave us the chocolates in the first place to give us an attitude of gratitude for the ones we do?
Be blessed, be a blessing.
Let’s face it, we Brits are obsessed with the weather. It’s one of the default subjects of conversation, it often makes headline news and we are avid amateur meteorologists with our own ways of predicting what the weather will be.
One of the ancient legends is about St Swithin’s Day:
‘St. Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St. Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ’twill rain nae mair.’
The theory is that if it rains on St Swithin’s Day (15th July) it will rain for the next 40 days. Analysis of weather patterns has proved this to be incorrect. This week we have been told that we have had the coldest Spring in 50 years, and the fifth coldest since 1910. Global Warming (ironically) is among the causes that are being blamed for this unusual weather. I don’t pretend to understand it all, but there is no doubt in my mind that human activity has adversely affected our climate and that we will have to get used to different weather patterns as a result. It may be that in years to come the St Swithin’s Day forecasting method becomes more accurate.
One of the things that annoys me about our weather forecasts on TV is the amount of time devoted to telling us what the weather has been and what it is right now. We know what it has been. And all we have to do is look out of the window to know what it is doing right now. We want to know what it will be like. You might as well use one of these high-tech weather forecasting stones (which are available to buy – click on the picture to go to the website).
It has been said that it is not that the weather is wrong, it is that we wear the wrong clothes for the weather. That may be so, but it does help if the weather forecast can be consistent enough for us to be able to put the right clothes on. How often do we find ourselves ill-equipped for the weather – thick jumpers on days that turn out to be hot, t-shirts and shorts when it starts pouring down with rain.
Jesus seems to have had a lot to say about the future (paraphrased by me): don’t worry about tomorrow, worrying won’t change anything; prepare as well as you can for what you expect to happen; you may not know what the future holds, but you can know the one who holds the future.
Trusting God for the future is not as easy as it sounds. It’s not a case of sitting back and waiting for whatever happens, because we have a life to be lived to the full. And it’s not a case of being a control freak and then blaming God when our plans fail. There’s a delicate balance that we need to find, and I think it comes from a close walk with God. He’s not someone to be consulted occasionally: he wants to be involved in our lives – a partnership, a relationship. The more we involve him in our lives, the easier it is to trust him and to sense what he wants us to do. The more I have trusted him in the past (and he has come through for me) the easier it is to trust him now and in the future.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
To tell the weather, Go to your back door and look for the dog.
If the dog is at the door and he is wet, it’s probably raining. But if the dog is standing there really soaking wet, it is probably raining really hard.
If the dog’s fur looks like it’s been rubbed the wrong way, it’s probably windy.
If the dog has snow on his back, it’s probably snowing.
Of course, to be able to tell the weather like this, you have to leave the dog outside all the time, especially if you expect bad weather.