Thought for the Month
Sitting at the Butterstone Burns Supper back in January, I was struck again by the way some of Burns’ lines can say, in a few words, something that we all have felt. There are a couple in Tam O’Shanter which always stand out for me – when Tam’s wife is at home waiting for him she is described as ‘nursing her wrath to keep it warm.’ We recognise there something we have all done (or experienced from others!) Later in the poem are the profound lines ‘But pleasures are like poppies spread, you seize the flower, it’s bloom is shed, or like the snow falls in the river, a moment white then melts forever.’ How well that expresses the transient nature of material things.
That is what poets do. They find a form of words to express something recognisable in life experience – it is just that most of us can’t say it as pithily as they can. As we grow older it becomes easier to see these things because the more we experience of life the more we recognise the truth they express. Like many folk I well remember having poetry drummed into me at school and most of it went right over my head. (It shows the truth of the old adage ‘education is a resource wasted on the young!’) I feel I would get so much more out of it now having a bit more life experience.
The same is true of the Bible. Many’s the time I read something and puzzle over it only for its truth to hit home later on through some experience. The writers of ancient Scriptures experienced the same in life as we do and what they wrote makes sense for us once we have experienced the same darkness, or the same temptation or the same strength and blessing. We might read something like the words of St.Paul in Philippians 4:17:
‘Then the peace of God which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.’ Perhaps for a long time we wonder what on earth that means and then we experience a moment of near despair, we put our trust in him and we discover its truth for ourselves as we find that peace of God which is beyond understanding.
If that is true of things we experience here and now, I believe it is equally true that the Bible speaks of things to come which we do not yet understand or see, but for now, can only guess at. One day though, at the end of our journey, we will see and know for ourselves. Having come this far and discovered so much already, perhaps we should learn to trust him more.
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