‘This year is mine to make or mar’

Rev David Clarke
Rev David Clarke

‘The biggest show in the country’ last week featured the repeat of an interview with Sir Cliff Richard, recorded after the decision that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges of sexual impropriety.

Looking back on his career, Sir Cliff recalled a happy event during a tour of Australia.

Like many schoolboys of his generation, he had communicated with a pen pal ‘Down Under’; and in a letter written when he was aged twelve, the young Harry Webb (his real name) admitted to a desire to become a pop star.

Imagine his surprise and delight years later when touring Australia with ‘The Shadows’, he was approached by the pen-pal from all those years ago, whom he had entirely forgotten.

The past does not always assert itself in such a pleasant manner. Tolstoy, in his novel ‘Resurrection’ tells of a Russian nobleman fulfilling his role as a local magistrate.

One day a prostitute and two of her associates are brought before him. They were jointly charged with robbing and murdering one of her clients. The case was straightforward, but the magistrate was uneasy.

Something about the woman troubled him. Then the truth crystallised in his mind. She had been a serf on his father’s estate, when he had seduced her and started her on his life of immorality.

‘The ghosts of forgotten actions, came floating before his sight, and things that he thought were dead things, were alive with a terrible might.’

How can we prevent the past coming back to bite us?

The advice of the celebrated Boston preacher, Philips Brooks (author of ‘O little town of Bethlehem’), can scarcely be bettered.

He wrote, ‘To keep clear of concealment, to keep clear of the need of concealment, to do nothing that one would be ashamed to do out in the middle of Boston Common at noonday.

That, more and more, seems to me to be the glory of a young man’s life’. And it would be the glory of any life!

If we wish to end 2017, able to say with Edith Piaf, ‘Je ne regrette rien’, then make use of the following prayer: ‘This year is mine to make or mar, God keep me strong and true, Let me no erring by-path take, No doubtful action do. Let there be something true and fine, when night slips down to tell, That I have lived this year of mine, Not selfishly, but well.’

Have a regret-free New Year.

The Rev. David Clarke was Moderator of the Presbyterian Church from 2006-2007.