When it comes to the changes of life, we are always the same person. It’s just that we happen to find ourselves inhabiting a different place, being at a different point in our own history. Nowhere is this more true than in the context of ageing. No matter how old you are, you remain the person you have always known as ‘me’, the person you met when you first became aware of yourself as an autonomous human being. This generally happens at around the age of two, when a person realises that they have a certain amount of power over other human beings. Realising that we are autonomous beings is what gives rise to the frustration and anger that so besets the lives of children in these earliest moments of real consciousness. We become conscious beings, or selves, in the moment we understand that the fulfilment of our desires and needs depends on other people, so when the young child cannot make herself understood because she has not yet fully developed the faculty of language, she becomes frustrated and angry. It is her first conscious experience of unhappiness.
As we move into our later years we become increasingly dependent on others, although we should not need to exercise the kind of power over them that a two year old would. Sadly, some older people have do not yet realise this and, as a result, cause much damage to their existing relationships. Relationships start to matter more as we get older and we can inflict serious damage to them by refusing to let go of the past. By letting go of the past I mean letting go of the negative thoughts, memories and regrets which have made us as we are now. Regrets relating to damaged relationships, those of childhood as well as those pertaining to later life, are one of the most painful things we have to endure as we get older.
In Jesus we have a God who is with us, not only in these regrets, but in our remembering of all the circumstances which led to a particular unhappiness. We are given his life to live, from this moment on. He offers it in exchange for our own lives, both past and present. The changes we are going through, and our memories and regrets are now ‘hidden’ in his life for all eternity.