#advent one – looking back

I thought that I’d use the season of advent to spur the blog back into action again. It’s funny – I love writing it, seeing it as something akin to a therapeutic device, but all too often it becomes a bit of a chore…and therefore maybe not something too healthy! Working with a distinct theme, however, gives a purpose. I’m using the Bible Society ‘Advent Challenge’ resource this year, which hopefully will stimulate some thoughts, as well as Simon Cross’ Alternative Advent.

How often do we stop and think ‘how on earth did I get here?’ Not literally of course (although more than once I’ve found myself having completed a thirty minute commute to work and had absolutely no idea what happened on the way) but how we’ve got to whatever stage we find ourselves at in our life journey. I’m definitely one of life’s over thinkers – or should I say reflective practitioners – but have at times been guilty of finding myself caught up in the ‘now and not yet,’ without acknowledging, celebrating or even mourning that which led me here. Ironic that this has been an issue for me, really, as history is a great passion.

One of today’s advent reflections encouraged us to use Matthew’s genealogy to remember those who have contributed to and shaped our life, and to be thankful for their influence. I sense that this is a really helpful thing to do, as ‘no man is an island, entire of itself‘. We are shaped, battered, nurtured into our current form by forces that we haven’t always had the ability to control.

I think of my upbringing, the indelible influences of a family who loved me and put up with my nonsense whilst helping me to be ‘me.’ From then I’ve learnt what it means to be grounded, and to strive to be the fullest version of who I can be.

I think of those who shaped my earliest experience of faith – saints too many to name who may never have spoken deep truth to me, but certainly lived it.

I think of my teachers – I wonder how many would be astounded to see where I’ve ended up, and how much I model myself on how they taught me.

I think of my wife and my children and how they’ve taught me to turn my selfishness outwards and to love without limits and without fear.

I think of my friends with whom I’ve walked (and run!) over the last decade as I’ve tried to live a Jesus shaped life – the embracing of doubt and uncertainty, the jettisoning of the unhelpful and the taking up of the life-giving.

I’m more grateful than I could ever put into words for all these influences, and for how they’ve helped me to be, well, me.

For how your love has shaped me, your acceptance has encouraged me, your rejection has emboldened me and how your grace has transformed me – thank you.

I can’t help but be drawn towards these words of Isaac Newton as I reflect:

if I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants‘…

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