Our grandson Nathan graduated from high school this past week. I can’t believe it! During the graduation festivities, our son Ryan, our daughter-in-law Holly, and her parents, Rick and Pat Bollinger were remembering the day Nathan was born…it seems like only yesterday! We remembered that Ryan called us when he and Holly went to the hospital. The four grandparents were so excited anticipating the birth of our first grandchild that we flew to Jacksonville, Florida and arrived at the hospital around 10:00 p.m. We had been waiting for 2-3 hours for the baby to be born, when Ryan came out and urged us to get a good night’s sleep and come back in the morning. Although that made logical sense, we knew we wouldn’t be able to sleep. This was our first grandchild! So…we went to Waffle House and had carbs and coffee! When we returned, we were so eager for the baby to be born (and to find out the gender!) that the four of us literally sat on the floor outside the delivery room door waiting for any word about the birth. Finally…at 5:00 a.m. Ryan came out and raised his arms in a joyful exclamation, “It’s a boy!” There are no words to describe our emotions in that moment.
As we told this story to Nathan during the graduation festivities, it was as if our entire family “experienced it again.” Obviously, Nathan did not remember this story even though he was the center of it! But what amazed me was how he sat in rapt attention and delight as we told this story. He was a graduating senior…and yet he delighted in this story about his birth! It told him something of his identity….and his “crazy grandparents” who loved and adored him… even before he was born!
This is the power of remembering. Memories have incredible power in our lives. Memories tell us stories from our past that shape our identity…they help us discover who we are and whose we are. In our passage for today from Deuteronomy, Moses is challenging people to keep remembering what God had done for them in the past. Moses knew that these memories of God’s faithfulness in the past would not only sustain them in the tough times, but would help them to see God’s activity in the future.
Old Testament scholar Bernard Anderson says, “Memory is one of humanity’s supreme endowments.” The most distinctive feature of the Jewish people is their sense of history, which, Anderson believes, is kept alive by remembering. In fact, he says, “if historical memory were destroyed, the Jewish community would soon dissolve.”
So…as we gathered for Nathan’s graduation, Suzanne and I couldn’t help but think of our son Ryan’s graduation from High School too. We remembered that two of our grandparents were there…but two had already died. We missed those two grandparents at Ryan’s graduation and we missed all four of our grandparents at Nathan’s graduation. In that moment…I realized how incredibly blessed Suzanne and I are to be present to see our grandson graduate from high school! And, I realized once again what a privilege it is to have the endowment of memory that ties all of us together in a timeless and an eternal bond across the generations. Memorial Day week-end is a wonderful time to reclaim the incredible power of “re-membering!”
- When was the last time you shared a memory with someone? Did you “experience it again?”
- Can you think of a story that others have told you about yourself that happened before you could consciously remember it?
- What does this story tell you about your family? What does it tell you about your identity?