Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 2, 2008
Turn from the past, go to Christís glory
Be like St. Paul and press on to heaven
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
It was the night before the weekly garbage collection day in my community. I took a bag of garbage to the curb in front of my house. On the way back up the sidewalk, I detected the unmistakable smell of someone nearby smoking a cigar. I called over the tall cedars separating my yard from my neighbour's.
"Ben?" I said.
"Yes" came back his voice through the darkness.
"Are you smoking a cigar?"
"Yes I am."
"I love that smell," I said, and it was true.
The full-bodied aroma of a cigar opened little grey cells somewhere in my brain and recalled a time decades ago, and made me think of my father who died nearly 40 years ago. Although he didn't smoke cigars, that smell reminded me of him and a gentler time and place. Cigar smoke is masculine and good-natured, just like my father - at least to my mind.
It's strange how smells can involuntarily bring back memories, good or bad, in much the same way certain tunes remind us of a time in the past. For some people, the smell of freshly-cut grass may remind them of summer evenings when they were a child, or perhaps waking in the morning to the smell of fresh-baked bread evokes memories of a grandmother, or the briny smell of the ocean conjures a longing for a family home in a harbour town.
The smell of old books reminds me of my grandfather, the smell of cigars, wool coats and pine trees remind me of my father, just like ragtime piano reminds me of him. He was an excellent pianist.
He was a scholar of an older order and Christian of the first order. He was also one of God's great gifts to me. Although he died when I was 16, my father was the principal force in developing my personality, character and a sense of morality that was steeped in his Christianity. All my memories of my father are nearly so old and yet not a day goes by that I do not think of him.
At the greatest point of mourning the death of his wife, C.S. Lewis wrote,
"Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the Spiritualists bait their hook! 'Things on this side are not so different after all.' There are cigars in heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored" (A Grief Observed).
How would I choose?
But the happy past cannot be restored. Which happy past would I restore?
Each happy past precluded or excluded some aspects or people unique to each period. Which happy past would be chosen?
The happy past with my father only encompassed my childhood and adolescence; it does not include my wife, children or grandchildren. My reality has expanded greatly since the particular happy past with my father. I would be miserable without the people who came along since then. If they were included, it would be something different than my happy past with him. It would be something completely different to any experience or memory in life.
There is no looking back. It is unworthy of our humanity and the God we serve. Didn't Jesus warn us not to look back in life? A man who wanted to follow Jesus said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:61-62).
We are to strive ahead knowing a greater glory lies ahead for those who live and die in Christ. We read in 2 Corinthians about an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison that awaits those who live and die in Christ (4:17-18).
Happy pasts be hanged! A happy and glorious future is ahead of us with Christ.
St. Paul recognized that his glorious future was not his possession while here on earth. He said, "Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession.
"Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14).
He did not look back: He pressed on toward his goal, which was heaven.
Sentimental memories of the past will pale in comparison to eternity with Christ in which our loved ones who make up the mystical body of Christ will be partakers. Happy pasts will fade to a joyous future.
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