Editor’s note: This is the final post in a series called, “Remembering the Good.”
1 John 4:9: God’s love was revealed among us in this way:
God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.
Taking pause to remember so many of my life’s wonderful blessings has made for a wonderful, but curious, Lenten season. Lately, for whatever reason, my childhood has invaded my daily life. I find myself overcome with emotion because of my memories. There has been so much good in my life. Yet sometimes, I long for those days and the feelings of home and routine and security with so much desire that I get lost in those memories and feelings.
My eyes are closed, soaking up the pictures of days past. My eyes are closed, missing the happy pictures of days present. My eyes are closed, envisioning a future that unrealistically has me as a child and as a parent.
What am I doing wrong?
In remembering the blessings, I acknowledge that my life is full of reason to give thanks. I am reminded of who I am and of the people in my life that love me unconditionally. However, in remembering, I think that the shadowy side of nostalgia, the one that casts every part of a memory in a bright light, in fact does cast a shadow on the present, leaving the good in the dark. How can today ever live up to yesterday? Certainly, I don’t want to go back and remember every bad and tragic thing in my past to achieve balance for myself.
How can I remember well?
There has always been this belief in the back of my mind that in order to move on from past hurts and traumas, an individual must try and accomplish the task of letting go without forgetting. That way, lessons from tragedies and mistakes can be carried forward without taking along the emotional bondages that were established. It’s a hard separation. The task requires that someone objectify a personal memory, something that is naturally subjective–difficult, indeed!
I think that I have to apply my belief to the other side of the coin. I have to find some way to be grateful for the good, for I don’t want to forget to be grateful, while holding the sentiment at bay. There’s just nothing so bad in my present that I need to idealize the past. Sure, there are days and moments of days when I need an escape or a hand to lead me out of a hole. There are some behaviors to improve, some money to be saved, and some work to be done, but those are just good life goals to keep around because they help the motion of life move forward. Still, there is a wealth of good that is fresh, fragrant, and current. Open up, eyes.
I believe in a God who gave us life so that we might enjoy, even love, our life on earth. I think God wants us to smell the flowers and hear the birds and see the ocean and say, “Oh yes, this earth is good.” I believe that the phrase from 1 John 4:9, “so that we might live,” refers to not only our eternal souls but also to our present selves, as we are here on earth.
I believe that God worked very hard to create me, a unique being, a unique child, and that graciously, I have been able to share in the creation of another unique being and child. When I sit and hold her in my lap, admiring the locks of curls, tinted with beautiful browns and blondes, I imagine that God is pleased with my admiration and is admiring along with me, each strand on her head and mine. Open up, eyes, realize what you are seeing.
With fond memories of my Old Testament and American Literature professors in mind, I believe that God allows us to wander in the wilderness, no matter the thickness of brush or dimness of light. The wilderness is Sacred Space. Open up, eyes, see the path before you; even though it might be a circle, God is alongside you, through each curve and each straightway.
Imagine calming anxious nerves based on the recognition that God is with us in the past, God is with us in the present, and God is with us in the future. The present is always timely. God is!, God is!, God is! What a good place to be! Is this “Om”?
I dropped out of Philosophy 101 in college because I didn’t want to memorize anything and I didn’t want to consider anything too deeply. Even though I have a little better grasp on philosophical thought now, I would still probably drop out of the class, 10+ years later. Let me throw on my own brakes…
I know this ramble is muddy, as unclear as my Philosophy and Theology professors’ lectures–muddy, muddy, muddy (head shaking).
I know these things:
It is okay to remember; it is okay to forget; it is okay to repress.
It is okay wander; It is okay to let go; it is okay to re-form.
It is okay to be grateful; it is okay to be satisfied; it is okay to recover.
It is okay to have hindsight; it is okay to have foresight; it is okay to just see.
It is okay to live in the open, bright valleys; it is okay to have a stay in the closed, shadowy forests.
The water should be much clearer.
The return and the conclusion:
I am writing in the present intentionally.
This Lenten season is important for me. It is a convergence of time and emotions. I am a creation, a child, a friend, a chaplain, a wife, a mother. I am tangled. I am wandering, but my eyes are open.
I hear the rain.
To read more from Stephanie Little Coyne and the other posts in her series, “Remembering the Good” visit her blog.