The ‘Promise’ that Summer Brings…
Savouring memories of an old tank stand
Summer looks like it has finally arrived!
You might recall me writing recently about how I eagerly look forward to the arrival of our warmer months!
I was enjoying an early morning stroll with my wife recently… Joanne, myself and our five-year-old Australian Shepherd ‘Bear’ occasionally make our way along the country road that fronts Gilbulla’s entrance. We were simply taking in the morning dew on the sunlit spiderwebs, enjoying those early morning moments my dear wife has taught me to appreciate - before the rush of the day ramps up.
In the freshness of a new summer morning, I’m learning to listen and be blessed by all creation is displaying… like the red-rumped parrots and corellas that squawk and announce the start of the day joyfully, trying to race one another as they swoop from tree to tree that line our driveway. Then there’s the carolling magpie that sings its hopeful song in the distance as we walk towards the nearby village. As we reach our walk’s turnaround point at Menangle Store, it’s become a tradition that Joanne draws a deep breath to savour the fragrance of her favourite summer flower, jasmine, as it wafts over us. As we turn back onto our own country road for the return journey, a butterfly flutters by in its whimsical “nothin-to-be-worried-about” way. Then for a beautiful, lingering moment, a whisper on the gentle breeze – it calls to me - with a promise that I couldn’t quite articulate.
Not just the promise that it is going to be a good day, but something far richer, something far deeper. It felt more like Abba Father whispering to me a promise that everything is going to be truly wonderful!
Maybe you’ve felt that promise murmured to you, too, as you stood in some favourite spot—watching the beauty of the waves, or the stunning silence of the red desert, or the summer flowers atop the Main Range. Maybe it’s just your favoured garden bench with a perfect cup of coffee. It’s in those special places where Holy Spirit catches us off-guard through the beautiful places that draw us; it’s in these places something seems to be calling to us through the beauty and goodness that creation especially brings.
Without doubt, summer is my preferred season. I love the lushness of life it brings. The thunderheads that roll-in late in the afternoon. I love the sense of promise nearly every summer morning proclaims. But most of us, while we sense this ‘promise’… we’re not sure what to make of it.
As a younger boy, I fondly recall an old timber water tank stand out the back of my dad’s house in the country town of Toowoomba in south-west Queensland. 22 Farquharson Street. My brother and I used to leave mum and our Brisbane home and go stay with our father over school holidays. I’m very thankful to my dad for making those holidays full of adventure! We used to race our mini bikes around the yard of that house… we’d start at the old tank stand, race under the big avocado tree, around past the front steps and shoot up the dirt driveway again with the old tank stand as the finish line. Lap after lap after lap. Out the back was an old garage shed which housed all sorts of ancient tools - mischief for young boys! (I recall a mishap with an air-rifle one time inside that old garage, which may become the topic for a blog on another day!)
That old house and yard provided many fond memories for two young brothers.
Toowoomba is situated west of Brisbane and above the Great Dividing Range, so it was always several degrees cooler than the humidity of Brisbane in the warmer months – a nice escape from the usual muggy summers. I also enjoyed the novelty of winter frosts during the July school holidays – I can still recall the crunch of the ice under my shoes. The smell of two-stroke fumes from my brothers Suzuki RM80B also remains etched into my memory – even as I type this, I can still ‘taste’ his exhaust as I re-live chasing him around that property on my little 4-stroke Honda XR75! The memories keep coming… Right at the back corner of the property my dad converted an old hen house he called the ‘chook run’ into an aviary where I could breed budgerigars. I can still picture all the beautiful birds with plumes of blue, yellow, green, white and grey. My favourites were the pied budgies (mixed colours)! I remember the wonder of peering into the nesting boxes to see the chicks hatch! There are also memories of my brother and I climbing the old avocado tree and collecting as many of the avocadoes we could safely pick. We’d take them to the local grocer to fetch our best price ($30AUD was our best effort for a big box of about a hundred back in 1977!). That old house was where we wrestled our dad and listened to him recite poetry and tell us all sorts of hilarious tales. We made some very funny home movies on an old Kodak home movie camera - none that I’d want to tell you about here! 22 Farquharson Street was the staging post for much bigger adventures our dad would take us on, far wider afield.
It was a magical place for a boy to enjoy and explore and there are many more memories I could share. In my 12-year-old heart, that old house has always been there, and will always be – just as I remember it!
Wallace Stevens was an American modernist poet, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his Collected Poems in 1955. He must have experienced something similar from his boyhood. Take this in: -
“I still sometimes dream, occasionally in the most intense and brilliant shades of green, of a jungly dead bend of the Whitemud River below Martin's Dam. Each time I am haunted, on awakening, by a sense of meanings just withheld, and by a profound nostalgic melancholy. Yet why should this dead loop of river, known only for a few years in my youth, be so charged with potency in my unconscious? Why should there be around it so many other images that constantly recurring dreams or in the phrases I bring up off the typewriter onto the page? They live in me like underground water; every well I put down taps them.”
Wallace Stevens was experiencing the same ‘haunting’ I have felt as I remember my special places. Each carry some sort of promise seemingly woven into the tapestry of our lives. It comes to us through golden moments, through the beauty of creation that takes our breath away, through precious memories and the hope that only a special holiday place can awaken. It comes particularly through the beauty around us that takes us back to those moments.
That Promise fits perfectly with the deepest longing of our hearts—the longing for everything to be good. I suspect it is all part of ‘The Sacred Romance’ that Brent Curtis and John Eldredge write so eloquently about in the book of the same name.
Perhaps this Promise is even alluded to in the echoes of Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”
Note how this passage points to this haunting ‘Promise’ with the mention of ‘beauty’ and how it links to ‘eternity’ being ‘set’ in the human heart. (Clearly a mystery that no one can fully fathom!)
Something profound is at play here –God is purposely stirring something in our hearts when we recall fond memories and beautiful places.
Recalling the mystery of this Promise in creation’s beauty is one of summer’s greatest gifts to me. But does the Promise ever come true? Is it ever fulfilled? That is what my heart longs to know— is the mystery ever finally revealed? And why did God ‘set’ this Promise in the human heart in the first place and make it so hard to fathom?
Part of the answer is revealed in Romans chapter eight:
“The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens” (vs19-21 NLT).
It appears the Apostle Paul believed that all creation was trembling with ‘joyous anticipation’ of something, suggesting that creation knows some great secret we do not. However, Jesus has revealed the secret very clearly to us:
“I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne…everyone who has given up houses or…property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return…” (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT)
Christ is referring to His return – “when the world is made new”.
It will be the restoration of all things.
This is the great secret the beauty of creation is proclaiming.
This is the great hope of our faith!
I now understand, some forty plus years later, why the memories of the old tank stand at 22 Farquharson Street are filled with “a sense of meanings” and “charged with potency” (as Wallace Stevens would describe)… because God’s Spirit was revealing the Promise to me of the restoration of all things, through that special place.
It is coming to each of us in many ways if we would just open our hearts to ‘see’ it; it is coming to us through the glories of the summer days that lay ahead this Christmas.
I share this in hope that you and I will begin to understand the whispers of the promise that are coming to us, that these gifts will fill our hearts with hope. “The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less” (2 Cor. 5:5 The Message).
Forget about the distractions and disappointments of a pandemic year. Allow this Christmas festive season and the summer that adorns it, to whet your appetite for the promise of eternity that has been set in our hearts – it awaits every follower of Jesus. May it assure you completely of the great and final restoration that is nearly upon us.
Bring on the New Year,