“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10
I remember writing a particular paper when I was in college. One of the reasons that I have such a clear memory of the experience is because I stayed up all night the night before it was due to finish it. It was about my past, and the relationship that I had with my past and how it was anchoring me down. Not in the way an anchor holds a ship steady but in the way it holds a ship back.
I don’t remember the full extent of the thesis of that paper, but I do remember spending a lot of time that night wrestling with how to come to terms with the life I had lived to that point. Does what we have done in the past define who we are in the future? Do people have the power to change? If so, how do we create change while still holding onto the things about our past that shaped us for the good? There’s a lot of existential angst wrapped up in all those questions, which frankly was not out of character for my 20-year-old self.
There’s a great quote by writer and actor Sam Shepard that says, “It’s very difficult to escape your background, and I don’t think it’s even necessary to even try to escape it. More and more I think it’s necessary to try and see what it is that you inherited on both ends of the stick: your timidity, your courage, your self-deceit, and your honesty and all the rest of it. It’s necessary to include all that in order to be able to accept one’s self.” It’s a beautiful encouragement towards self-acceptance, but even more so it is a calling to find our true center.
We live in the present, and I believe that to be the most content we need to center ourselves in that present moment as much as possible. Yes, it is undeniable that we are imprinted with the memories from our past which pop up to inform that present moment all the time. Sometimes they inform that moment in a positive way and subconsciously lead us through difficult moments. Sometimes they inform that moment in a negative way and tinge even the most joyful experience with notes of sorrow or grief.
But in the end, when we find that true center, accepting both our past for what it is, and our future for what it will be, we can then turn ourselves into vessels for God. To paraphrase my pastor Matthew Kozlowski, by denying ourselves we empty ourselves out. Over and over again, emptying and filling and emptying and filling, such is our heavenly state. Because when we empty ourselves, then can we be filled with God’s grace, and turn our lives to loving and serving others, and then once more be filled with grace again.
It’s a beautiful thought and a glorious place that is almost certainly found at the center of each one of us.