by Joanie Butman
Memorial Day represents more than a three-day weekend, barbecues and fireworks marking the official start of summer. Unfortunately, its true meaning has been diluted by retail sales and festivities that do little to commemorate the men and women who have died in service to our country. Originally called Decoration Day, the observance of Memorial Day began in 1868 as a tribute to those who died in the Civil War.
The importance of remembering shouldn’t be confined to just one day or group of people. Hopefully, as a nation and individually, we learn from our past. Remembering doesn’t have to constitute dwelling unduly on past mistakes, as we can’t move forward if we’re always looking in the rear-view mirror. However, we need to be aware of what’s behind us and have respect for the lessons learned.
Even though I’m tempted to exercise selective memory, the regrettable experiences from my past are an integral piece of the person I am today. They wouldn’t be if I denied them or refused to extract any meaning from them. The truth is, for reasons I can’t explain, I choose to learn things the hard way -- and it’s not a strategy I’d recommend. I’ve always envied people who can learn from other people’s mistakes, instead of being a warning others learn from.
Remembering was the reason I began writing. It started when my children were born. I kept ongoing notes about cute or funny things they did. Good thing because even though you think you’ll never forget, you do. It’s fun to go back and read my annotations – the memories vivid only because they were chronicled. When my kids became teenagers, my notes got sketchier as there weren’t a lot of ‘cute’ moments. Even so, the teenage years had critical (although painful) teaching moments for both sides. I’ve recorded those too. My copious notes will save my children time and money in therapy someday! It’s the least I could do to compensate for my imperfect parenting.
There are many who think of God as a strict parent, keeping His own copious notes on our not-so-cute moments. Blessedly, that’s not the case because His love is a perfect love. Make no mistake, He’s taking note of our life, but when He reviews it with us, it will be through the lens of His love. (As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 113:12)
When I think of my children, it isn’t the growing pains I remember. It’s the joy they’ve brought into my life. And so it is with God – the loving Father of perpetual teenagers. Ever since Eve’s first date with the devil, God’s been dealing with snarky, lazy, obstinate, rebellious children who think they know more than Him, and are determined to do things their own way. In fact, He’s left us a lengthy book of examples that could save us a lot of pain and angst if only we’d choose to learn from it.
Blogging is simply a way of chronicling my ongoing journey through spiritual adolescence as God works to usher in some semblance of maturity. It’s been a long road. You wouldn’t think you’d forget a divine intervention, but it’s amazing how quickly a “What have you done for me lately?” attitude creeps into your subconscious. Unless you make a deliberate choice to recognize and remember God’s past providence, it tends to fade under whatever new crisis erupts. More importantly, our life stories are chapters of a bigger story – God’s story, which is why it is so important to share them.
Studying history of any kind is fascinating whether it’s a book on the Civil War or the Bible. Both are all about remembering our past to improve our future. Studying past military and spiritual battles is important training for both types of warfare. Personally, by choosing to reflect and remember the struggles God has brought me through strengthens and encourages me when facing any new challenge. It’s often only in hindsight that His handiwork becomes obvious. It might take years before you recognize that your worst nightmare was actually a blessing in many ways – sometimes even a saving grace. Our life experiences are building blocks with which we develop an intimate knowledge of God’s character and sovereignty, which builds trust, faith and intimacy.
Choosing to remember our past is vital to our future. It defines who we are and how we got here. So bring on the burgers and fireworks. We have much to celebrate – the freedoms we enjoy in this country and the spiritual freedom from our slavery to sin, both bought through the painful sacrifice of others on our behalf. It’s an excellent day to remember our national motto on which the founding fathers built this country: IN GOD WE TRUST. Choosing to start every day with that prayer is even better.