Friday June 19, 2008
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4.
I sometimes wonder if, in the next life, we will look back on this life with nostalgia. My mother was sure that we have no memories or knowledge of things on earth. She believed my father could not be happy in heaven if he knew how unhappy she was. On the other hand, Ann had a terrible childhood in a totally dysfunctional family. Yet she looks back with no resentment or anger—perhaps disappointment at a lost childhood—recognising the characteristics of compassion, persistence and survival she gained as a result, together with faith and hope found in Christ.
Looking back from these latter years of life, in Jacob’ words, our “years have been few and difficult.” Many of those years were hard; not only Ann’s childhood, but much of our married life gave rise to anxiety. We faced many of the same obstacles to marriage and life in general that most people face today: money, incompatibilities, disagreements, and raising three children through them all!
We made investment mistakes, causing financial hardship for many years; we felt called to fulltime ministry that provided a meagre and erratic income, and looking back, we could have probably given our children a more enjoyable childhood. We had disagreements in some churches we attended, straining relationships, and I did not enjoy architecture, my first profession, which gave me great stress. Even during our ministry years, I sometimes felt trapped in a situation that seemed to go nowhere.
Yet we look back on those years with a pleasurable nostalgia, recognizing that in the big picture, the individual difficulties we often found ourselves immersed in were part of a strategic conflict to achieve worthwhile objectives. The Bible talks of labour pains as the prelude to enjoyment of the child. I sympathise with women at a nine months gestation period that seems interminable at the time, but so short compared to the years of childhood that follow.
We have had the immense privilege of raising a fine family and sharing God’s word with many who would listen. We are so thankful to God for direction in life that provides us now with great joy in accomplishment. Perhaps that is why we look back with happy memories now of our life past despite its frequent obstacles. Visiting places and even people that have given rise to problem situations raise significant, sometimes bittersweet, memories that have contributed to a life of meaning.
It’s worth remembering that any situation that we may be facing now is fodder for that compelling nostalgia in days to come. And this may be the way we will remember this life in our life to come, one of joyful memories of accomplishment, however great or small; the tears of failure and conflict wiped away.