I’m thinking today about the capacity to remember. With divine deliberation and unclouded foresight, the Creator chose to fashion the mind of man with memory. To be able to recollect – to re-collect images, experiences, expressions, numbers, dates, conversations, consequences, and encounters – is the champion quality of the well-functioning mind.
Maybe being around my family so much in recent days has sparked this subject in my thoughts. I cannot laugh with my daughters across the table at a restaurant without remembering them as little girls. I cannot kiss my father-in-law on his silver brow without recalling him as a man bigger than life in his mid-forties the first time Keith introduced us at a professional hockey game.
Like many of you, I have at times completely abhorred the capacity to remember. I still have flashbacks of staggering and disturbing moments in my childhood. I remember a scene in my home in my young adolescence that still causes the hair to stand up on the back of my neck. A song from the 70’s can still stir up the ache of a break up with a first love. To me, perhaps the worst of all dimensions of memory is regret. Regret is the excruciating recollection of all the decisions I could have made a different way. It’s the acrid memory that no one else assigned me. It’s mine alone to own. That I find the hardest of all. I have hated the capacity to remember so much that, at times in my life, I’ve held my head with both hands and yelled, “Stop it!”
But today I’m thinking to myself that all the torturous memories I’ve stacked up like past-due library books on the bedside table of five decades are worth the capacity to recall moments that make life on this earth worth the trouble.
Like the first time a handsome, jet-black headed young man reached across the front seat of a sports car at a stoplight and held my hand. He held it again this morning.
Like the first time I got to be all alone with a child I’d carried for nine months and I unwrapped the swaddling, leaned over her and whispered with tears dripping from my chin, “Hi there. My name is Mom.”
Like the time I took the training wheels off the smallest-ever bike and gave my baby girl a push and watched her take off down the pavement, pedaling furiously and perfectly, with blond locks of hair dancing behind her like banners in the sun. I’ve been chasing after her ever since.
Like the first time that same child threw a three-pointer. And that time I did a double-take and realized she’d shaved her legs…about 2 years too early.
Like the look on her big sister’s face when we walked outside her favorite restaurant on her 16th birthday and a new car was in the circle driveway with a large bow on it. Thanks to her grandparents who’d owned it and saved it for her.
Like this morning when I played on the swing set out here in these Texas trees with an eight year-old and a five year-old who have an uncanny resemblance to my oldest.
Like innumerable times I’ve laughed with friends until we couldn’t sit up. And prayed on our faces until we almost couldn’t get up.
I could keep going and maybe I will on my own but it would be over-indulgent here. I just want to say today that memory is a gift. An exquisite one. An excruciating one. The same capacity that invites us to replay something beautiful can recount the deplorable in startling color.
The point of this is to say that I, for one, think it’s worth it. Even with all my regrets and amid all the flashbacks. Despite all the disappointments and heart-sinking disillusionments.
To remember is among the dearest of all human capacities. A sliver of Imago Dei. Over and over on the sacred page we find the words on which we hang our hope. And God remembered.
To be thankful is, in itself, to remember.
So, today, Lord, I want to say to You that I am thankful. Because I remember. I remember the ditch You pulled me out of. I remember the hopelessness I’ve felt and the fears that I had no future. I remember a time when I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up. And I remember that the sun came up the next morning and the next and the next, glistening without fail on a heap of fresh mercies. I want to say that You have been right all along. And that life is such a gift. And it is precious. And passes with such haste. What we can hope is that there would be no waste.
And, to those of us who love You, who are called according to Your purpose, You have promised that to be true.
We are grateful today, Lord, precisely because we remember.
We remember how good You’ve been to us when life has been awful.
We remember the light through the cracks in the door when we tried to lock ourselves away in the darkness.
We remember that You would not leave us alone even when we begged You to.
We remember Jesus.
We remember Him crucified. Raised. Ascended. Seated. And interceding.
Thank You, all-wise and benevolent God, for the capacity to store up collections of Your kindnesses to us through the courses of our lives.
You are good. Your love endures forever.
Help us remember.