Looking Back and Looking Forward

My last Thought for the Day for a while, broadcast live today on Good Morning Ulster (as usual approximately 25 & 85 minutes into the programme), influenced not only by my anniversary today but also the Haass talks and the Hope and History campaign... Don't forget to sign up and help shape a more hopeful future for this province.

A few years ago I pre-recorded a thought for the day that was due to go out on my wedding anniversary and I used that as the introduction to my talk, but then forgot that I had doe so AND forgot to tell my wife Sally that I had mentioned it… This then caused her great puzzlement when lots of people wished her happy anniversary throughout the day… 
Well, it is once again our anniversary… I won’t tell you how many years except to say that for some unknown reason the recommended gift for this year is a musical instrument… So I hope Sally enjoys the kazoo I’ve bought her! 
I’ve many happy memories of our wedding day, when people from all the diverse spheres of our lives, family and friends, came together to publicly mark our commitment to each other before God… and have a good party… But that was just one day, and as I often emphasise when I officiate at weddings, no matter how much it has cost a wedding is only one day, but a marriage is so much more… hopefully for life. 
Our married life has brought us through all sorts of ups and downs, twists and turns… But today is a day for being thankful for ALL the experiences that we have come through together. 
One of my favourite writers is Belfast’s own C.S. Lewis, and in his novel “Out of the Silent Planet” one character says “A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered…” 
I heartily agree with that sentiment, as thankfully Sally and I have plenty of pleasures to be remembered… However, if today was only a day for looking back wistfully then there might be more than a touch of melancholy in that… With a sense that our best years are behind us… No… the best is yet to come… 
And what is true of my relationship with my wife is also true of our wider relationships in this province… We spend a lot of time remembering the past here… There always seems to be an anniversary or even a centenary to celebrate… or commemorate in some more sombre fashion, because of the painful nature of the memories involved. 
The past inevitably shapes the present, but as Richard Haass comes to town one of his biggest challenges is helping us to find ways of dealing honestly with the pain of the past, so that it does not imprison us and generations to come… But also we have got to stop looking back to some mythical perfect past when everything was at peace in this land until the “other side” messed it up, whether it be before the Brits came or before the Troubles… 
We need to let the past be the past… coming to terms with where we are in the present, so that we might forge new relationships that will take us into a more hope-filled future.
Shalom

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