A fair amount of posts over this two year blog journey has been about my past. It has been a way to tell my story. Recalling the past creates a variety of emotions. Positive ones like excitement at the memory of ‘good times’. Thankfulness for people and family. Those that have brought leadership, joy and friendship to me at various stages of life. Opportunities and experiences that have been a blessing.
There can also be darker feelings which may or may not be true. Regret at ‘what might have been’. Sometimes a sense of failure to grasp opportunities. Suspect I am not alone in this light and dark view of what’s gone before.
My story is more than just a collection of experiences. Like looking at ‘old fashioned’ picture albums (suppose that ages me). Each photo showing people, places or times that elicit memories. The question the photo can’t relate to me is ‘what was I thinking? what was I feeling?’ at the time?
For a long time I have been in the habit of writing a journal. Most of it is fairly mundane. Details of my day, people met, chores done. Maybe something I have learnt or experiences. Occasionally some notes are more insightful. Maybe something of what I actually thought or felt years ago. However it’s not inspiring to find some struggles appear much the same as back then!
The temptation is to regard life merely as something to be built and developed. That more experience will somehow add value or meaning to my existence. More experience of course comes naturally with age. No effort required! It seems to me that in today’s world experiences, in and of themselves, can often be ‘used’ and discarded. Much like we consume goods and services and then put in the trash. To be forgotten in the deepest sense. There is an irony in the term ‘bucket list’!
Reflecting on my story should not be an exercise in trying to ‘make sense’ of things. Life is messy and filled with mystery. Neither should I view the past nostalgically. Some vain attempt at re-creating ‘good times’ in the past. It is an attempt at recognising that all of my past is part of who I am today. We are all searching for meaning and significance, to be part of a bigger story.
“One way of defining the spiritual life is to see it as a life in which we keep making connections between God’s story and our own….. The story of Christ is therefore not “the greatest story ever told”, but the only story ever told. It is the story from which all other stories receive their meaning and significance“.Henri Nouwen, The selfless way of Christ p.71, 75.
Life is unique and rich. We all have stories to tell but may not always listen to each other. What is important to us might not be shared. Your story is different from mine. A word that comes to mind is incomparable. Stories honestly told are not to be compared, ranked with others. As such they can inspire others and give hope.
Every life is a gift. Given by the Giver. It may have been spoilt or misused. The good news is life can be redeemed. That is worth celebrating.
“The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.”Luke chapter 15 vs 21-24 NIVUK