Sitting here on my lanai on this rain-soaked morning, I have been contemplating the time of the year. (For the uninitiated, a “lanai” is the Florida version of a screened-in porch!)
Not only have we just experienced a somber remembrance of Memorial Day, and the 73rd anniversary of the meaningful sacrifices of so many on D-Day, 1944, but for many, if not most of us, this time of the year also brings with it three other very significant events.
First, there are weddings. June is the most popular month of the year for weddings. Each of these celebrations are the hope-filled uniting of one man and one woman for life. They are designed to be very joyful and happy occasions for all.
Second, there are graduations. No matter whether the graduation is from graduate school or grade school, the experiences are also filled with hope and anticipation. It is significant that the graduation ceremonies are referred to as “Commencement” exercises and not “Culmination” services, isn’t it? The moving of the tassels in those services signifies a positive progression in life for the graduates.
Third, there are reunions. Reunions are different from either weddings or graduations in that the atmosphere of hope and anticipation is replaced by attitudes of comparison and possibly regret.
This summer, my high school class made an effort to gather together for our 50th reunion. Having recently relocated, it was not possible for me to attend. But many of my classmates made the trek back to our hometown and for a few hours reflected on the places where we have been and how far we have come.
Reunions are times when we not only celebrate the successes of each of our classmates, but also mourn the losses. And after 50 years, there are plenty of both!
Since this year was the 50th anniversary of my moving the tassel in that high school graduation so long ago, reunion thoughts have been on my mind lately. But I do not want to stay there!
Jim Smoke writes: “When I was seven, I had a treehouse in a large cherry tree in a secluded spot on our farm. It was my retreat. It housed my dreams and soaked up my tears. Years later, I visited my childhood home and climbed up into that old tree.
Cramming my six-foot-one frame into that small place, I stayed long enough to affirm that it had been important to me during a special time in my life. We all have treehouses — times and places in our past that enrich our lives, creating wonderful memories. We make things special by investing ourselves in them.”
The Apostle Paul spoke of the treehouses and high school reunions in his life when he said: “Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Those past experiences are valuable ones. Those treehouses and those high school years are ones that for most of us, we may not wish to repeat, but we look back on them and think about how small they seem. The reality is – we’ve grown! And you know, that’s what we’re supposed to do!
The Apostle Paul had a great deal in his past that he could look back on, remember, and reflect about — the pedigree he had been born into, the credentials he had amassed, and the good things that he had experienced. But all that he understood to be “rubbish,” and he only needed to look ahead to the future – to press on toward the goal.
In light of all that, reflecting on the hope for the future that comes with weddings and graduations as well as the reminiscences of the past that accompany reunions, I guess the question for each of us should be: What is your goal? What are you aiming for?
I once had a professor who said that if you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. No matter where we are in life, we need to leave the past behind, and press on toward the goal of pleasing Christ, of becoming conformed to the image of God’s Son (Check out Romans 8:28-29).
Jim Smoke concluded his thoughts with this statement, “But just as I physically outgrew my treehouse and moved on to my adult life, many of us need to outgrow the past — as special as it may have been — and build new memories.”
We all are like Jim Smoke. Somewhere in the recesses of our minds and hearts, there are treehouses we have all climbed into. We do not want to forget those places, those events, those people who have comprised all of the years of our lives. But we do not want to dwell there either.
The challenge facing each of us is pretty simply stated but hard to realize: May God help each of us not to forget the treehouses and reunions of our past, but to grow and go forward to become more and more like Christ this coming year!
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC.