In my youth, I spent 18 months supporting people with epilepsy getting back into the community. It was very challenging, but taught me so much. It was a privilege to support people, some of them with very complex medical conditions and behaviours, and trying to bring understanding and hope. I did encounter much prejudice and fear about epilepsy amongst some local people around, and that was unsettling. It brought realism to my understanding of the indignities and barriers people with debilitating disabilities can experience. I greatly admire those who live with intractable epilepsy, and their families, for it can be a hard road to travel.
At the weekend, I had the opportunity to go back to the place where I worked. I walked up the steep hill, and when I got to the top, I found that the whole building had been demolished. There was nothing left, and a very expensive new house was built in its place. Of my memories and experiences, there was no physical reminder left. It was all gone.
Sometimes when we look back, we see the past with rose coloured glasses, and we think we would like to return there. Yet the truth is that there is no going back, which at times can seem very stark.
The work of prayer is to ask God to guide us in the present, so we can start looking forwards. We take what we have learned from the past, and we ask God to use it for his purposes, so we can build for the future. This can be quite daunting, and takes courage. Sometimes rather than embracing the new, we want to run away. Yet every memory and experience that we have, had to start somewhere. And so we need to be willing to begin again, with an open mindedness and positivity as to what new possibilities might look like. It needs a period of grieving, and a change of mindset, a new way of thinking.
I remember the words from Colossians chapter 3, to leave behind dark things from the past, and to have a new start, to begin again. The writer speaks of it being like putting on new clothes, and in the Message paraphrase it says:
‘ chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you, compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offence.’
It is an encouraging thought, that every morning we spend time with God in prayer, asking him to equip us for the day, and to put on the spiritual clothes God has picked out for us. Then we are equipped for each new day, and for whatever we face on the path ahead.
Gracious God, we are thankful for the past, both light and dark, brightness and shadow. In times of transition and change, we like to look back, at what was familiar and comforting. Yet Lord Jesus you call us to live our lives each day. Take away our fear, and may your holy spirit enable us to walk forward in freedom and expectation. May we do so with creativity and vision, expectant at what You can do, in Jesus name, Amen.