Stephen’s Letter

Dear Friends
Travelling back to Canada where I was married, to meet in-laws who I seldom see, reminded me of times past. I was especially aware, this holiday, of how things which are in the past affect us in the present. Things that we have said, done, or experienced which affect our lives in some way – and may even seem to cling to us.
In my experience of ministry most people have wonderful memories of happy times, but also memories of experiences they would rather forget. Sometimes people feel restricted by their past. Experiences, maybe as children, can powerfully affect our present lives. And some of our strongest experiences in the past, especially where we have been hurt or misunderstood, can prevent us fully experiencing the present.
Strangely something similar can happen with the future. We can become wrapped up with future plans and future hopes. An imagined future can motivate us to do things that mean we almost ignore the present. Perhaps this is also because we are trying to escape a painful past or maybe avoid present difficulties. Even on holiday, it is possible to try to capture the moments we live, as photos, in order to look at the present in the future! Bottling the past so we can enjoy it at some future time, perhaps at the expense of enjoying the present moment.
It’s not wrong to enjoy remembering the past, or to plan for the future, these are gifts we can enjoy, but there is a risk that our lives become focused on our past and future in such a way that our present – each day’s experiences – become so bound up with past or future that we fail to see the beauty of the moments God is giving us. Past experience, or worrying about how a decision will affect our future, can prevent us from being truly free to enjoy God’s good gifts.
Jesus meets us in the present, saying things like, “do not worry about your future,” and, “no one who sets out to plough a field can look back.” In fact, we are encouraged keep our eyes on Christ – in the present moment – not even the Jesus of our past, but our present Lord, the Lord of eternity, who releases us, in this moment, from our past – leading us towards a future which he has already taken care of.
A blessing by Brother Roger of Taizé speaks to me about this:
Bless us Lord Christ,
us and those you entrust to us.
You envelop our past in the heart of God
and have already taken care of our future.

May God bless us richly!