Remembering who we were—the good, the bad, and even the ugly of our past—is a key to facing the future with holy confidence and joy. Keeping in mind the depths—and heights—I’ve come from keeps me focused in the right direction.
Doesn’t every family have their legends? Their black sheep and closet skeletons, their crazy ancestors and whispered tales? My family in Maine sure does.
But does it matter if we forget? Sometimes very much. Remembering who we were can provide a cure for the extremes of floundering in depression and despair or boasting about our exploits.
Remembering the Good
It’s a healthy habit to remember the past, the men and women I came from. What lessons can I draw from the schoolmarm grandmother…or the one who spoke English with an accent? From the wanderings of Pierre, the hatmaker’s apprentice who fled war- and plague-ridden France to the New World? From the intrepid Puritans who built New England out of nothing but stones and steadfastness? Similarly, I can learn from the heroes—and even anti-heroes—of the country I live in.
The climax of my novel, Legacy of the Linnebrink Light, highlights the story of a young man whose moral courage turned around an entire island. While Kurt’s neighbors immortalized his brief candle of life in a quasi-cultural festival, they soon forgot the profound meaning of what he had done for them. It took an outsider, Cristina, to remind people of the history behind the revelry.
How can we change the future if we don’t remember our past? Like those islanders, let’s start to make a habit of celebrating a permanent Memorial in our hearts, not just an inspirational holiday.
“You are not defined by your past. You are prepared by your past.” –Joel Osteen
Remembering the Bad
This isn’t a bleeding-heart exercise to recount my own sins and failures, nor to heap blame on those of others, but sometimes we have to face the dark side to find the light. Because remembering who we were means recognizing, with humility, what’s wrong so that we can put it right.
In Linnebrink Light…
- Kurt’s descendant, Raúl, had to admit how far he’d fallen before he could climb out of the pit.
- Raúl’s son, Leonel, had to appreciate the good in his heritage before he could effectively combat the evil.
- Cristina, the teacher, had to see her own need to learn before she could save the world.
My Droplet Gift #9: I may not be all I should be, but I thank God I’m not what I used to be. As someone has said, “God loves us just the way we are, but He loves us too much to let us stay that way.”
Remembering the Ugly
In my novel, Swan Pose, Marcos Serrano recounts to a baffled Coni Belmar something of his past. “My life story’s in the Bible—I’m the prodigal son…I walked away into the darkness and spent a couple of long years wallowing in guilt and doubt and emptiness. After some hard knocks…a light came on in my heart and I remembered—I’m redeemed. Jesus bought my life and I belong to Him.”
Both Marcos and Coni carried a lot of baggage. Both knew you don’t have to be old to have a grim past. But remembering where he’d come from kept Marcos on target.
And though Coni labeled herself an ugly duckling, she too came to recognize that God “makes all things beautiful in His time” (Eccl. 3:11). That’s redemption. Remembering who we were can change who we become.
Lord, don’t take me home… until I remember daily who I was and rejoice that I’m one of the redeemed.
Lest we forget…