My training in biblical studies has given me a deep appreciation for the long and dusty road of history. I still have my first Old Testament history textbook. It opened up new worlds for me as I became familiar with the scope and breadth of people and cultures that have long since disappeared. So much is gone but then we can’t even completely know ourselves and those closest to us in our present life.
A dear friend is brilliant, insightful man who has always had the weakness of harboring resentments. I sometimes see the same tendency in myself and I pray that I can grow old with grace. When we reflect on our lives we can easily become consumed by resentment, guilt, and regret in a way that hides the sheer miracle of having lived and of being alive.
When we reflect more deeply, we can see that even troubles which we brought on ourselves contain a hidden gem. Difficulties can be the greatest friend of our soul. I wonder if that’s what Isaiah meant when he said that God will “swallow up the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. (25:7).
The Welsh poet R. S. Thomas has written a beautiful poem about looking back on life with regrets about having missed an opportunity. Of wishing we could do something differently.
I have seen the light break through to illuminate a small field for a while and gone my way and forgotten it. But that was the pearl of great prize, the one field that had treasure in it. I realize now that I must give all that I have to possess it. Life is not hurrying on to a receding future nor hankering after an imagined past. It is the turning aside like Moses to the miracle of the lit bush. To a brightness that seems as transitory as your youth once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
At the heart of this poem is a realization that all time is contained in the eternity of God. As John O’ Donohue insightfully recognizes:
Your time is not just past or future. Your time here always inhabits the circle of your soul. All your time is gathered, and even your future time is waiting here for you. In a certain sense your past is not gone but rather is hidden in your memory. Your time is the deeper seed of the eternity that is waiting to welcome you (Anam Ċara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom, 187).