By: Julia Somerset


“Childhood scenes rushed back at me out of the night, strangely close and urgent. Today I know that such memories are the key not to the past, but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work He will give us to do.”

– Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place


My husband often says that life must be lived forward, but it is only understood backward. The events of our lives—whether they are things that happen to us or actions we commit ourselves—seldom make sense in the context of the greater purpose of our existence.


What is the relevance of these “childhood scenes” as we look back over our lives? Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote a fantastic poem called “The Chambered Nautilus,” and this is the climax:


Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!


This poem is about building upon our past selves to become greater beings—and it is essential to that process that we retain our lesser past as the foundation for a greater future. This idea comforts me when I think about a wonderful time I will never get to relive, or something bad from my past I wish I could forget. All of these things make a foundation for our future, and it is all preparation for our life’s purpose.