I am in England as I write this, visiting the place we lived for seven years. We raised our children here and the place is packed with memories. I sat on a bench this morning overlooking a soccer field gazing at some of those memories. The memories are strong, some still painful. It took me seventeen years to return here and, except for remembering what turns to take on new and old roundabouts, few memories have faded.
On that bench, I gazed back in time seeing my son Travis moving his feet skillfully over a soccer ball. I moved my head slightly to the right and saw my daughter giggling uncontrollably as I pushed her on a swing. Little seems to have changed. The swing-set looks the same, and the soccer field no different than it was. Many of the trees are larger now, but that’s about all. I could see myself rushing past on my bike on a paved path bordering the field with my youngest son, Brett, sitting in front of me. He is seated on the bikes bar, gripping on the handle bar as I hold him tight with one arm.
This place also holds memories of loss.
I thought I had packed those memories, but each one emerged, one by one, and I wept slightly, but not much. A lot heals in seventeen years. For some people, memories are tormenting, for others, comforting. For me, they do both. Something began to happen though, as I sat on that bench. I began to look ahead. Considered the future and the memories gradually were replaced by hope.
I meet people who only have the memories.
Those who lacks faith in Jesus have only the past to dwell on.
Like wisps of wind, a warm promise moved through me, and then another. Slowly the dust of memories cleared offering me a view of an exciting future. In that moment, my heart leapt. It did not last but just a second or two. But, enough to lift my spirits. The promise that all that happened here in this place, in this town, with us … did not go unnoticed by Jesus. Nothing can ever replace the loss; no words, no new experience. The memories tell me that. But, the hope of a future full of joy, absent of pain – the hope of holding my son again, of experiencing love with others – is good. The promise of complete healing for my wife deepens the longings. The hope for that kind of future, is stronger than the memories of loss. Or, at least, becoming so. Gradually.
Hope urges me forward. Memories cannot do that. They pull me back. While comforting at times, dwelling on memories can become selfish and self absorbing. For an overly nostalgic guy like me, pulling away from the past is not easy. I can get stuck there and it makes the present unsettling. Thinking of what lies ahead requires trust, and faith. There is something freeing about it. I like what it does to me, and to others. My wife, Elaine, is far better at this discipline than I am. Perhaps, because her memories are more painful than mine. She lives by hope. Hope drives her. I decided on that bench today to do a better job joining her there.
I like the view it offers! After all, they do say, nostalgia is a thing of the past! (sorry, couldn’t resist!)
Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling. (2 COR. 5:2)