“I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).
Yogi Berra said some very funny things. At once humorous, garbled and yet profound, they make you think and they make your head hurt.
Here’s one: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” It sprang into my mind recently as I read, yet again, someone’s opinion that mankind is growing nobler in character. The author of the book I was reading believed evolution was at work, inexorably pushing humans (sitting regally above the evolutionary chain) to higher purposes than those, say, of our brutish human ancestors whom we are leaving in the evolutionary dust. Others believe God or an unnamed higher power is doing the pushing. Regardless, the conclusion is the same: “we are getting nobler.”
I disagree. The history of mankind from ancient days to the modern era is chock full of atrocities and brutality. History reveals no differences in how humans of this or any age think, let alone how they behave towards each other, the things they strive for, the things they desire, and their propensity for exploitation of others to promote self-gain.
I tend to think like Yogi: some may hope the future holds more promise, but I know it ain’t what it used to be.
But even though humanity may still be corrupt, individuals can and do change to become better humans. Speaking as a Christian, I believe Jesus changes people—He changed me. In his book, Six Surprising Ways Jesus Changed the World, John Ortberg gives an excellent account of how humans have changed for the better as a result of the life of Jesus and His followers. But Jesus changes us one at a time; it is a one to one relationship. It cannot be legislated, coerced, forced, or assumed, and it certainly isn’t evolving. Brevity of life and a one to one confrontation makes the process non-universal.
Choice and free will are pesky things.
No Yogi Berra, my Mom had her own unique way with words. She used to tell me to be careful about the road I traveled because “you never know who you are going to meet.” Who knew she was talking about me? Too many times the person I meet on the road, the one who needs to be approached with caution, is me. And here another “Yogiism” comes to mind—“It’s déjà vu all over again.”
Our gospel message is clear: with Christ we are born again. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). But it is also equally clear that we are far from perfect. “So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members” (Romans 7:21-23).
The change wrought by God is permanent, but we can and do still go down swinging.
I didn’t realize it then, but I began to record my own punches when I began journaling in 2000. I am not sure what prompted me to begin to journal about the things going on in my business and personal life, but I am very glad that I did. Journaling has been of singular importance to me, chronicling my growth in Christian faith and enabling me to recall, in my own voice, God’s magnificent answering of each and every one of my prayers.
That is not to say I always got what I originally wanted, but I always got what was perfect and right. Perfect because the answers revealed a God who heard my prayers and used the circumstances of my life to mold me more into an image of Christ; “right” because the outcomes led to wisdom and the realization of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) in my life.
But the biggest benefit I obtained from journaling was gaining perspective.
Journaling gave me perspective about my own human frailty. If you want to experience the reality of the duality of human purpose—a strong desire to please God that runs headlong into a strong desire to entertain the flesh—start journaling.
The second perspective gained: anxiety is worthless. Jesus (Matthew 6:25) tells us not to worry. Paul tells us (Philippians 4:6) to be anxious for nothing. God tells us through the Psalmist to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a). We all experience trials. Journaling has kept me from forgetting the highs and lows of my life and the anxiety I suffered along the way, spilled (and spelled) out in my own handwriting on page after page. But the record also reveals (1), I am not omniscient, and (2) God always works things out. Anxiety contributed nothing.
The record also reveals scar tissue was inflicted in times of trial, but wisdom was the fruit I harvested. And peace was the blessing. Not a remembered peace gained from looking back into history, about what happened and exhaling a loud “Pheeeew!” as if I had somehow dodged a bullet. Rather, I gained peace that is available to me in the present because of the clear record of answered prayer granted in the past.
My journals remind me of victories against insurmountable odds inflicted by an unfair world. They also provide comfort because a crisis is just “déjà vu all over again.” And my journals remind me, garbled as it may be, “the future ain’t what it used to be.” It is much brighter.