‘The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day’ Proverbs 4v18
Things can only get better! Wasn’t that New Labour’s theme song in the 1997 election? It depends what you mean by ‘better’ perhaps? 😉 When we are young we always hope for ‘health, wealth and happiness’ – we want ‘the best’ for ourselves and our loved ones; but anyone who has been around for a while knows we are not constantly moving ‘upward’ on our path or ladder of success, no matter how ‘righteous’ we are! So is this proverb simply wrong? What does it mean if it’s not a guarantee of a happy, successful life?
When Becca was little I commented on the weather forecast for the day: ‘It’s going to brighten’ She replied, ‘Postman Pat went to Brighton!’ Ha – clever mite – she’s always been a bright one. That double-entrendre has been a joke in our family ever since, especially as Brighton has figured in our story quite a lot. We bought my engagement ring in the Lanes on 13th July 1981. Martin did his second medical ‘housejob’ in the hospitals there from August 1982-Febraury 1983 and during the 6 months living in Bellevue Gardens, Kemptown, he was baptised as a Christian and I conceived Rebecca! A place of beginnings you might say, ‘the first gleam of dawn’… so it seemed very appropriate when our daughter moved back to Brighton to start university in 2004. She has lived in Kemptown for the last 7 years and we drove south to visit her last weekend as she’s preparing to move into a new studio flat just off St James’ St.
I have been wanting to record and examine the experiences of our 48 hour visit in the light of that verse in Proverbs – and now I’m also going to try to include some of the reaction to Sam’s outburst in my last post about money. In fact, Sam himself is writing a reply that I will post here on Monday. Thanks to everyone who has joined in the debate, both here and on the Support Sam facebook group, and to those who have given money, however little. That was not my intention in blogging on it, but rather to bring into the open where we now find ourselves on this journey… and of course there is always a risk in opening up. For instance, I do regret making Sam look bad by exposing his angry outburst, as it only shows one side of him; what he said to us privately he would never say publicly, he is the most self-controlled of men. I am glad he can have his own say and bring balance, so watch this space!
Anyway, it has basically been a week of extremes since we were on the south coast last weekend, with highs and lows. It’s more like one of those roller-coaster rides on the end of Brighton pier that makes you feel sick and ends in screams and getting soaked, so how could it be possible to see anything getting steadily ‘brighter’? All we can ever say for sure is that life is uncertain – it’s often cloudy and frequently 100% grey and overcast, if not downright pitch black: where is this so-called ‘increasing brightness’ coming from?
We had a great Saturday: after a miserable start the Brighton weather really did brighten. How lovely to walk through the colourful town, inhaling sea air, take a memorable ride on the Wheel and walk on the pier at sunset; we spent too much on a wonderful meal with Becca and her boyfriend and were happy. On Sunday morning it was raining hard. We had to find somewhere to park in the narrow streets and wait for sleep and hangovers to recede before loading up the car with things that won’t fit into her new flat. We arrived at Becca’s door too early and the interim coffee-shop coffee was awful; tempers were frayed and misunderstandings came too easily – typical family stuff. We got cold, wet and fed up, but finally loaded the car to head home. The 3 hour drive was gruelling, with motorway accidents, detours and oceans of spray. Home at last – and our reunion with Sam turned out less than ideal as well, as all his frustrations came out over dinner.
What can you do with all that? Go to bed and pick up the pieces on Monday morning; it felt anything other than ‘brighter’ – but then I guess you have to take the long-term view… Perhaps we do actually grow through these difficulties, as we persevere!?! We choose to remember the good bits and forgive the bad bits – isn’t it great that human beings can’t actually remember pain? – and looking back at the lovely photographs certainly helps with that. Plus there is that promise in Pauls’ letter that if we keep looking at the face of Christ we will be ‘transformed from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3v18) – so perhaps the brightness is going to be most obvious to those looking on from outside.
Taking a longer term view of life as a journey, perhaps it is possible to discern forks in the road where we have made decisions and now there is a sense of reaping what was sown. Perhaps the ‘brightness’ of the ‘righteous’ road is something to do with hope of reward – of aiming for a goal, the ‘upward call of God in Christ’ (Phil 3v14) and the belief that in the end all will be well. Last week we saw ‘The Exotic Marigold Hotel’ at the cinema in which the protagonist repeats his mantra ‘Everything will be alright in the end, so if it isn’t alright it isn’t the end yet!” That can be an irrational belief in fate, but when we trust in the realities of God’s justice and promised eternity the future extends beyond death to a place where everything will finally be understood and put right; that is the ‘full light of day’ we are heading for.
A good friend sent me an email today about Sam and I am quoting it here to finish. It helps make the point that the brightness we are following is a hope that supersedes the gloom of circumstances and our struggles to overcome them. It doesn’t mean we should do nothing to alleviate suffering in this world when we can – it only means that the ‘path of life’ is about much more than that and it can only grow brighter as we look to the reality of what is to come beyond our present trials.
This is how my friend put it:
“I don’t have any problem with Sam’s rant – if that’s a fair way to express it. I have absolutely no idea what I would be doing in his position – or yours – and none of it offends me. I think it is probably better ‘out than in’.
My ‘two-penny-worth’ is that Sam’s cry gives me the same feeling that I got time and time again when we lived in an African country and people came to the door and asked for money. Sometimes it was just for that day’s food, sometimes it was for larger things – once it was for a bed – or even a house… but maybe a shack is a better way of describing it. The reality was though, time and time again, whether we gave money or didn’t – whether it was a tiny amount or a huge amount – deep down, we knew that money wasn’t really the answer. What these people really wanted was a ‘normal’ life, was ‘hope’ that at some stage there was a future for them which they didn’t have to contend for day in and day out.
I guess for me/us that is what Sam is also crying out for – and my guess is that is what I would be doing given his circumstances. The money – and what it can buy him – may help ease the pain to a degree and I hope it does. But from our perspective, in any of our lives, it cannot buy ‘life’ and ‘hope’… but we do have an amazing friend who can do that and does do that.
So we will continue to pray that in his journey forward Sam will find a greater measure of that hope and life – wherever he is, whatever treatment works or doesn’t.”
Amen – until the full light of day. Meanwhile we continue to do all we can to give him the best life we can in the here and now.