1b‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. 2When you pass through waters I will be with you, and through rivers they will not flow over you; when you walk through fire you will not be burned, nor will a flame scorch you……..5Do not fear, for I am with you.’
Isaiah 43: 1b to 2 and 5 – The Keys of the Kingdom Bible
These are troubling times. They are times that call out for us to pause as we go through our daily lives, and reflect on what life is, or should be, all about. What follows are some ideas that I shared as part of a public baptism. I find as I read these words, that I hope you’ll enjoy, that they have more relevance now than when I wrote them, several years ago. Please do let me know what you think.
My first hope for you is that you’ll make lots of friends with whom to share your experiences as you journey through life. With friends, there’s no need ever to feel alone.
I hope you’ll be able to develop an optimistic outlook on life. There’ll be plenty of upsets and challenges along the way, but if you can develop a cheerful outlook, even during those darker times, you’ll find that things become much more bearable.
For the same reason, I hope you’ll be able to appreciate the world around you. It’s one of the wonderful facts of life that wherever you go in the world, you’ll never be far from something that can bring you a sense of wonder and delight. So try to keep your eyes and ears open, and force yourself to take time to reflect on things that you see and do; you’ll find that the more you look and reflect, the more you’ll see.
There are those like the atheist professor Richard Dawkins, who’ll tell you that only the material side of life is real; I hope you’ll disagree with this. I hope you’ll rejoice at the fact that when you listen to a great piece of music or stand in front of an inspirational painting, or contemplate the meaning of life, scientists are unable to reduce to formulae what you’re feeling at that moment. So I hope you’ll discover and celebrate the wonders of your inner self, your individuality, your consciousness. Your spirituality, for want of a better word.
I hope that you’ll be compassionate. I think you’ll find that life becomes not only easier, but more interesting if you can view others as precious beings, just as you are. Scared sometimes of course, weak sometimes and hurtful sometimes, but precious and unique for all that. Christ once said:
‘In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you’.
It’s not for nothing that it’s referred to as the ‘Golden Rule’. In the dangerous world in which you’ll live your adult life, compassion and tolerance will be desperately needed values. At times when you don’t feel secure enough, or strong enough, to be compassionate in a positive sense, do at least try your best not to do or say anything that makes someone else’s life harder.
However your life turns out, you’ll meet plenty of people less fortunate than you are. If you care about them too, you’ll leave the world a better place than you found it, and what’s more, you’ll find you have a desire to give thanks for your blessings, however meagre you may sometimes consider them to be. Giving thanks will help you to focus on what you have, rather than what others have. This will also help you to feel more positive about life, and what it throws at you.
You’ll find in life that there’s an amazingly fine line between having enough self-confidence to survive in a competitive world, but yet not so much that it risks spilling over into arrogance. It’s one of life’s paradoxes that you’ll have to learn for yourself, as is the need to be self-reliant, but at the same time dependent on others.
I hope that you’ll develop the ability to understand what’s important in life and what’s not. It’s sad watching so many people going through life unfulfilled and trying instead to find solace in money and possessions. I hope you’ll learn that deep, lasting contentment can’t come from money and things, as the satisfaction of one desire just leads to another, greater one. Shakespeare wisely said in The Merchant of Venice:
‘They are sick that surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.’
Perhaps most importantly of all, I hope you’ll love. Self-sacrificial love isn’t just the greatest wonder in the world, but it may even be the one thing that explains in what way we’re made in God’s image. I hope that you’ll always, even at difficult times, be able to remember the phrase from Isaiah 43:
‘you are precious in my sight and honoured, and I love you.’
God has called you by name, and you’re His. Remember that you’ll always be His beloved child, and nothing that you do or say, or that anyone else does or says, can ever change that.
So, in summary, let me try to list my hopes for you:
- I want you to share the fellowship of others and be full of hope and optimism.
- I want you to reflect on how beautiful the world is, and to be full of joy and wonder.
- I want you to be in touch with your spiritual side.
- I want you to be compassionate and tolerant. I want you to care about those less fortunate than you, and to see much in life for which to be thankful.
- I want you to have a sense of perspective about what’s important in life and, finally,
- I want you to love and always feel that you are loved by, your heavenly Father.
So as I get to the end of this list, there’s really only one hope that I need to have for you. I hope that you’ll be a committed Christian and that you won’t mind being out of step with many in the world in which you’ll grow up, by being so.
That way, all the other things I hope for you will follow, as they’re all at the very heart of what it means to be a Christian.
And, most of all, that way you’ll become what God really created you to be.