Points to Ponder: Inventory Your Life Material Now

Points to Ponder
Inventory Your Life Material Now
By Pastor Whitmore
Weekly Contributing Writer

I opened the Sunday bulletin and there it was at the top: August 18. Some dates stand out for obvious reasons (July 4, September 11, etc.). But for me, August 18th has always taken me back and compelled me to take the long view forward to now.
In 1973, my Dad was working at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, South Vietnam. It was an 18-month assignment during the closing days of the Vietnam War. He had been gone since April and we missed him. He had two weeks of leave coming up; he would be home on Aug. 18. I remember the anticipation, waiting for that day to come. Those two weeks of leave went by quickly. I don't remember anything about what we did except that he put most of his focus on being with Mom; not as much on my sister and me. I resented that somewhat, but I also understood.
Those were miserable months during that time of my life. Just entering into my teen years, there was more uncertainty in my world than there was security.
The teen years are a natural time of mental illness in themselves. "Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What is life about?" A maturing body with a still very immature mind trying to function in a world you don't understand while trying to act like you do; it's a recipe for a self-contained civil war. And Dad was gone; but he would be coming home soon - August 18th. Then he would be gone again. What an emotional roller coaster ride those months were!
Now I sit staring at my bulletin and at that date, forty years later. I'm a husband and a father. I am sitting in an office - my office. I'm a pastor of a church (I never would have imagined). I didn't see this kind of life coming four decades ago.
I live in a town that, back then, I didn't know existed. In 1973, the land on which my house sits was pasture on a local dairy farm. The man who built it grew up on that farm and worked it with his father and brothers.
As I look at Aug. 18, 2013 from the vantage point of Aug. 18, 1973, I realize some amazing and comforting things:
1. The worries and troubles that overwhelmed my 13-year-old mind are long since gone. Most amounted to nothing and are forgotten.
2. Between those two dates, a lot of challenges and countless blessings have come. I had no idea what good things lay ahead.
3. Today I am doing what I was called to do, what I enjoy. I never would have considered it possible in 1973. I never would have set for a goal what I am doing now. I did not have enough life material yet with which to make that goal.
Many people don't like to study history; it's boring, they say. Yet it is in knowing history that one can trace the paths that brought them to where they are today. World history, local history, personal history; it all tells the story into which your own life fits.
Everyone who tells their own story will usually go back to a point in time. Some will even go farther back to where their ancestors lived. They then take their listeners step by step forward and wind up at a conclusion that says, "and here I am and this is why." All the recounting of past events and turning points (even relatively insignificant ones) leads to a theme. And along the way, as the story was playing out and the clock was counting forward to now, seldom did they know the end result of their journey.
Did it ever occur to you that you could be "living the dream" right now? No matter how foggy or futile things seem to appear or feel, this day could be the beginning of something wonderful. But you'll only see it in retrospect. Right now. You do not yet have enough life material with which to form a grander perspective on the moments in which you now dwell.
Oh, if only we could! Realize that today is soon a part of your past. You can go out ahead of yourself and look back in appreciation. If you can do that, you may be able to fully appreciate the treasures of the moment.
Some people want to relive the "good old days," or revisit and edit what's been done. But if you live in the moment, in the fullness of the potential of the present time, you won't need to go back after they're gone. You go forward knowing that you fully appreciate them while you were in them.
I think we enter our later years with an accumulation of regrets because we didn't pay attention to those days when they were called "today." The function of the fellowship of God's people is to help one another stay the course, to not lose that focus;
". . . but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: 'Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.'" (Hebrews 3:13-15)
While the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness, they forgot that the difficulties of those days were preparing them for the blessings ahead.
In the recounting of Israel's life story as a people, those dreary wilderness years are recalled for the sake of the perspective they offer.
"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (Romans 5:4)
Live and learn . . . and live.

Hilltop Christian Fellowship, 12624 Trinity Church Drive, Clear Spring. Listen to Rev. Whitmore on WJEJ-1240 AM, Tues and Thurs at 10:45 a.m. & p.m. & Wed at 10:45 a.m. www.hilltopchristianfellowship.com.