Recently I was visiting with a wonderful man who served in the military during World War II. He told me some amazing stories of love, sadness and deliverance. I finished my conversation with him expressing a feeling of gratitude for the memories that he clings to reminding him of his life and purpose. He maintains a spirit of joy even at the ripe old age of 95 years old.
Even though I am not his age, I do understand a little something about memories. I made a commitment this year to write everyday for a year. At the end of the year I want to look at my writing and see if there are any themes that seem to pop up over and over again. My goal is to find common ground with Scripture and my own story. I want to answer the ultimate life question, “Where has God been present in your life?”
It just so happens that I stumbled upon a small cassette tape that I recorded back in 1994. I had turned 30 years old and wanted to give my mother a gift of memories. I wanted to thank her for giving me a loving family and share with her the not so subtle of ways of teaching me life lessons on forgiveness and healing. Some of the stories that I recorded where not easy memories; however, they were necessary reflections to my growth as a human being.
Listening to these stories 19 years later has brought me a new appreciation for my family and the path that I had to journey on to get to where I am now. As I listened to my younger voice, I celebrated the lives of those who are no longer with me but were a very important part of shaping my life. I listened to my own process of forgiveness and healing as told in my own words. There was something incredibly liberating to hear a recounting of the many stories that gave me a sense of identity. I appreciated the lessons that were handed to me as I struggled to find my own sense of worth.
I recently preached a sermon on God’s presence in the middle of darkness. I told of God’s faithfulness and existence in the blackest of times. This tape reminded me of a time that I came out of the fog and into the light of God. As my World War II buddy said, “Memories are powerful and important.”
We hold tight to our past as a reminder of a time when God led us to be free of the pain that we carried. Our faith keeps us safe and our memories serve to remind us of our journey. The Israelites would never have gone back into slavery, but every year there is a celebration known as the Passover Seder to commemorate what God did in the lives of the faithful. As he did for those in physical bondage, The Holy One of Israel led us out of bondage. Theirs was a physical servitude while ours was a spiritual captivity. There is not a year that goes by that we remember that from which we have been delivered, the one who delivered us (God), and the absolute joy we have as those who have been redeemed. We preserve and celebrate our memories. They have shaped us well.