Past and Future

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. (Philippians 3:13-15 ESV)

Another year has almost slipped into history. It has been full of many changes. Perhaps your year had more than its share of changes. As I began to reflect on my year, I was reminded of a principle that I have made a focus for a long time: Never let past failures or future fears rob you of present joy. I have found that concentrating on this proverb has helped put many experiences into perspective. The following story illustrates the point so well:

Dick Lehman is a marvelous potter in Goshen, Indiana. One day a number of years ago Dick was hosting a visiting Canadian potter for three days of raku firing at his studio. Raku is a method of firing pottery loosely based on a 16th century Japanese technique, where a piece is rapidly fired, removed from the kiln while hot, placed in a container or pit with combustible material, and covered. Many interesting glaze and surface effects can be obtained using this method. Dick Lehman and his friend had limited time, so they decided to fire on the second day, in spite of threatening, very stormy skies. At one point when they were moving one of the large pots from the kiln to the post-firing reduction container, a tornado touched down several miles away. The surrounding gusts of wind toppled his container and Dick’s prized pot rolled down a dirt bank into a large clump of wet grasses. His heart fell to his feet. Very unhappy, he retrieved the pot, covered it up again, and "waited with dismal certainly for it to cool and confirm it’s almost-certain" failure. But when he uncovered the pot, he said, "To my surprise I discovered a colorful photo-like image of the wet grasses on the side of the pot." This happy accident led Dick to pursue intentionally firing fresh leaf images onto his raku pots. As he experimented, he was able to create an almost photographic clarity to the images. Today his innovative fresh leaf nature images on pottery fetch very handsome prices, once again proving the old adage; some happy accidents are the mother of great bankrolls. 1

Perhaps this year has been one “storm” after another for you. Perhaps some of the challenges you have faced were of no cause of your own. Can you find a way to pick up the ruined pot and unwrap it to find the treasure that remains? Often out of the most difficult of experiences come the best blessings. Out of illness, comes new awareness of the love and support of family and friends. Out of financial setback, perhaps you learn how to trim your expenses, or get by on less. The disappointment of not making it into the school or job of your choice turns out to be a blessing in disguise, and you find new meaning or new friends in another location. Each year, each day, and each moment really, is a fresh chance to begin again. Put the past where it belongs – in the past! Live in the moment God has given you and trust Him for your future.