The faces spread before me covered decades of life, layers of family, most of whom I’ve never known.
Part of our sister weekend was going through a tub-full of pictures Mom had saved. Our history. With both parents having passed on, there were photos we each wanted, visual memories of what life had been like.
Most were old black and white snapshots, yellowed, cracked and stained with time The faces reflected were filled with hope, joy and some sadness.
“Who’s this?” one of us would ask.
“How should I know,” was the typical answer.
When Mom was alive, my youngest sister was able to get clarity on identifying some of the folks in the photos. I was with them on one of those occasions, and I remember the smiles that ornamented Mom’s face as she remembered her youth.
Especially the boys she dated.
There were a number of pictures of Mom standing with men in uniform. Quite a variety of them. She’d volunteered at the USO the last few years of World War II, being a listening ear to men who just wanted to talk.
And she could dance. Dancing was decompression time for many. Forgetting what was real for a moment as two people whirled around to a beat other than the staccato sound of guns.
We didn’t find as many pictures of Dad. Raised in Texas, the southern cousins had first opportunity to keep photos they wanted. The ones we found were all branded with his big smile that reached all the way to his eyes.
Pictures cataloged our growth, from infants through college. Hairstyles alone had us laughing hysterically. And the clothes! “How’d we ever leave the house looking like that?”
Looking back also brought up the conversations of our experiences, individually and together. “Remember when’s” were quickly followed by “What were we thinking?” or “How did that ever happen?”
I see so much in my past that I’m not proud of. Things I’ve done to hurt others, choices that have hurt me as well. Remembering is a wonderful leveler of all playing fields.
We’ve all messed up. And we’ll continue to mess up.
Life is the accumulation of the memories of how we’ve lived our story. “Remember” is a word God uses often when He spoke to the Jews in the Old Testament. Remember the wonders He’d done, the miracles they’d seen; remember how He had been present with them. It was a chance for them to recognize Him in their daily lives.
The best “remember”, though, is from God–He chooses not to remember the things we’ve done wrong when we are His. His grace is sufficient to cover all the messes we make.
It’s too easy to remember the bad; the awful stuff surfaces quickly and mocks me with pain in the recollection. But God chooses not to remember my brokenness. It’s why Jesus came, to pay the price a perfect God requires of those who will live with Him forever in heaven.
My best memory? The day I chose to allow Jesus to pay my debt.
That’s a picture I’ll take with me through all time.