In a few weeks time I am moving house temporarily which means I have spent the last month going through drawers and cupboards sorting through things. I am not a hoarder, I pride myself on my organisational skills and my neatness so in theory the job of sorting through the contents of my house should not be a particularly onerous or time consuming one but it has taken me hours and in those hours not a lot of progress has been made. The problem is that every few items I go through there is a letter, a card or a photograph I have not seen in years and it sets me off on a trip down memory lane and 95% of the times induces tears.
The other Saturday as I was going through boxes of photos and letters I was overwhelmed by the fact that each photo and letter represented a person, a friendship and a story and I sobbed – tears of sadness but also tears of joy and thankfulness.
Many of the photos I was looking at were from over ten years ago before the age of digital cameras and smartphones. I looked at the faces of people I loved and a strong sense of each of their journeys welled up in me – of all that had happened in their lives in the last ten years or so. I saw answered and unanswered prayers, successes, relationships, losses, opportunities seized, joys, disappointments, babies, marriages, job triumphs and struggles as well so many memories.
Not only did the sorting of my stuff make me reflect back on each of those individual’s lives but on what part those individuals played in mine and how rich life is with all its experiences, dramas, highs, lows and even the mundane aspects of our every day.
Then the other day I saw for the first time this CS Lewis quote “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.” That quote so resonated with me because most days are pretty normal, and you go about your work and your play with nothing being particularly out of the ordinary and then every now and again you have the chance to reflect and you realise in the ordinariness of the every day which often feels exactly that, ordinary, in amongst those ordinary moments there are moments of the extraordinary, which alongside life’s big events all combined together means life changes, we change and we are different people from the people we were ten years ago and the people we will be in ten years.
So as I reflected and remembered I was also full of thankfulness for all that God has done in the last ten years. I think often it is only as we look back at the past we get a clearer idea of what was happening and how God was working. As I look back I can see answered prayers and lives changed in ways that I could not see at the time those prayers were being prayed or those lives being changed.
I love the idea, as cheesy as I accept it is, of our lives being like a tapestry with two sides, the beautiful picture on the front and then the underside, the mess of different threads, colours and patterns- the underside being the side we see as our lives in the here and now – the side that often feels messy and confusing. Then one day when our lives are at an end and we get to heaven we see the beautiful picture side and we gain an understanding of how what often felt messy and confusing was actually worked together to create a beautiful picture.
I totally believe that one day I will come face to face with my Heavenly Father and I will understand more of this life and have answers to the unanswered questions but I don’t want to wait until then to see how beautiful my life is. I want to get into the discipline of reflection – to be able to look back and see how God has and is working in the ordinary and the extraordinary, how he has answered prayers and transformed lives and not only so I can be thankful but so that I can be encouraged to keep on going. I believe that God has a plan for each of our lives and that he is a good God – it may not always feel like that when the tears come, when our hearts break and when things are tough but my testimony is that as I look back I can see that he has worked in amazing ways – that in the midst of the darkness the light has always come again!