The place of our memories

Do you have locations that hold emotional significance?

I do. This morning, I am thinking about a farm just outside of our town. It’s a beautiful property, with cream-colored buildings that stand out against the verdant fields of corn.

It’s a meaningful place to me. For years, I have gone to sit with the owner – a quick-minded, kind, elderly friend of mine – for a time of chatting on his back porch. He tells me stories, gives me advice, and best of all, calls me a young man, which is getting harder and harder to find someone to do. (With the exception of condescending doctors.)

I’m thinking of the farm because Bill passed away this week. I’m heading to his funeral soon.

I will dearly miss him. And now, I feel a strange burden as the bearer of his stories. The keeper of his memories. They’re not my stories to tell, but they’re mine to cherish. Stories about his godly parents. About the price he paid and the reward he received, over his career, for his integrity. About his love for his wife.

They’re all a bit of Bill. Handed over to me for safekeeping.

Last week, when I was in Ontario, I realized that the cottage and the lake it’s on are also emotional locations for me. So many memories linger there, ready to spring to mind when unlocked by a sight or sound. Or both: a lonely loon calling over a glorious sunset.

That’s why it was so satisfying to have my daughter, Grace, experience the place. And enjoy it. I’m passing on that emotional link. I’m trying to make my memories infectious.

We all want to be remembered. Our geographic touchstones, our stories, our gained wisdom – those things that make us who we are – are treasures we want to have cherished. But the world has a short memory. Sadly. And it pains us to be reminded. We try to forget how quickly we’ll be forgotten.

But not by God. This is our great comfort: we matter to him! In my reading in Exodus 4, I am moved by this account:

And the people believed; and when they heard that the LORD had visited the people of Israel and that he had seen their affliction, they bowed their heads and worshiped. (Exodus 4:31)

Like Israel, we cry “Remember, O LORD!” (Lam. 5:1) We want God to know and care about what happens to us, to remember those landmark experiences that make us who we are. Not only to note our sufferings -- as in the time of Israel’s slavery in Egypt -- but also our victories. We earnestly hope God will retain all of our life-defining moments.

What, indeed, will be worth remembering? The trivial will fade. But, as in the example of this verse in Exodus, what prompts us to worship becomes forever a part of our eternal relationship with God.

So, what ultimately matters isn’t my special cottage. Or Bill’s beloved farm. It’s the gratitude, the honor given to the Creator, the Provider, the Sustainer, that will remain. Just as there is eternity in our hearts (Eccl. 3:11), perhaps there is eternity that we weave into valued memory places through our response to God.

Those special places we commune with him become, I believe, as precious to him as they are to us.

Eternal God, you have no need of memory, for you see all of time. And you have no need to search, for you see all of creation. And yet we long to know that you see and that you remember what shapes us. Help us to so fully integrate worship in our lives that all our significant memories will be just a part of the eternal relationship you are building with us.

What's a memory place for you?  And how did it prompt worship?  I’d love to hear about it. Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And if you liked this, please use the buttons above to share it.

 

Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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