When I was a very little child I lived with my grandmother and grandfather in a rambling Victorian mansion beneath the branches of mighty walnut trees. There was a characteristic sound in that house, the chiming choir of several antique clocks all pealing Westminster, some early, some late. Who but grandfather could ever tell if any actually ran on time? The sound still chimes in my mind, but I cannot go back there again.
There is in the memory a mingled joy and sorrow. I was too young to see the pains that grandmother bore beside a silent and authoritarian man. My memory knows only the light breezes of a mild Canadian autumn and the yellow stained walnut hulls lying in the grass.
I am now my grandfather’s age and younger than I thought he was when I was five. My own son is the age my father was that fall so long ago. Grandmother and grandfather are gone, long gone. The house is gone. The walnut trees are hewn down and in their place a garish neon sign blinks over a fast food restaurant. If you wish you can park your car where the dining room once was and order an all too ordinary cheeseburger, “Do you want fries with that?”
Even if we wished we couldn’t turn back the years to hear the choir of clocks sing Westminster beneath the walnut trees. Those moments are savored and gilded only in the memory. Time passes on; it doesn’t stop to double back. There is no point in saying “Let us go back to things the way they were” with the thump of a squirrel landing on the porch roof and the patter of its busy feet running to store one more autumn walnut in the gnarled apple tree beside the house. For good, or perhaps for ill, we cannot go back there again.
Instead, hear the promise of God as He says to you, and to you, and to me, “"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
Put down the fading photos of the past and look to His promise for the future, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Join hands together, old hands tough, young hands rough or tender. Step into God’s future hand in hand. There is a kingdom to be won. There are the lost ones to be found. There is joy to be lived on the bright pathways of the kingdom of our God and Father.