“Before & Now: Reflections on Life’s Changes”
Written at a Henri Nouwen retreat in Ocean Grove, NJ in response to the invitation to write “God’s Story of Me.”
I cannot tell you God’s story of me.
For I do not have the strength or composure
that will overcome the tears of gratitude
and joy that will flow when I hear it.
God dare not share it with me until this life is over—
for God’s mystery is that I am destined not to know—
because the rest of the story is yet to be.
I will be faced with choices, blessings and challenges
that will determine the ultimate fruits of my life—
and the ultimate gifts I will yet give and receive.
For now, I must be content to share
some of the reflections of my life that I shared with God today.
From my heart to God’s ears—and yours!
Son, Brother, Friend, Husband, Father
and so many titles, positions and accomplishments—
already more than enough to fill a lifetime!
How quickly the time has passed!
And Lord, how much has changed!
I remember Asbury Park as a joyful piece of heaven—
And Ocean Grove as a place where old people go!
And now, look at them—look at me!
My life has changed too.
Before, I thought you were God in Heaven.
Now, I know that you are God with me.
Before, I believed because I was told.
Now, I believe because I have seen.
Before, I thought that if I were good, you would love me.
Now, I know you love me because of who you are—
and because I am!
Before, I thought that forgiveness of sins was a really neat concept.
Now, I know that without forgiveness,
I could never choose to love you back.
Before, I thought that doing the right thing
kept me in right relationship with you.
Now, I know that doing the right thing
is the fruit of right relationship with you!
Before, I thought that good would always overcome evil.
Now, I know that your Kingdom has not yet come!
Before, I thought it was the destination that is important.
Now, I know that it is the journey.
Before, I thought that you would spare me from pain and loss.
Now, I know that when I am in pain from loss,
you are there suffering too!
Before, I thought that I really knew about you—and about life.
Now, I am okay with not knowing,
because I know that you know.
Lord, thank you!
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Thank you for your blessing—and your blessings!
Thank you that I love—and for the beautiful people who love me!
Thank you for letting me get closer to you—and to those who love you!
Thank you for Life—and for the abundant life you have given to me!
Lord, help me to live the promise of my life yet to be.
And when I hear your story of me,
may my response be to dissolve in the arms of your love—
with tears of thanksgiving and joy!
When we grieve
we look into the mirror of our lives again and again
hoping that the pain and chaos of our past
will, in today’s light,
be seen not as a distorted blur of sadness and loss
but rather, by the grace of God,
be transformed into an image of healing and hope.
Thus we are able to move onward in life’s journey
no longer enslaved by the past
but now able to live more fully
in the light of a more beautiful world.
Sometimes, life is like a picture:
its true beauty can best be seen by looking
at it from a different perspective.
This photograph was taken of leaves on a small pond–
looking toward the opposite side of the pond.
From this perspective, the fallen leaves are in focus
and the image of the trees on the water
is upside down and to some extent
blurred and even out of focus.
By turning the photo upside down–
or in life, walking to the other side of the pond–
its true beauty can be fully seen and appreciated.