I sat in one of my favorite coffee shops in the whole world, located in Salem, Massachusetts. I spent the week at Gordon College, the school at which I completed my undergraduate degree. I spent time at that coffee shop learning – from books and people. But I am not a college student anymore, and I wasn’t with my college friends. I was returning for a conference for Christians who work in student development with my coworkers from Colorado.
It is funny how God brings us back to places. This week He brought me back to Gordon, the place where I spent important and transformative years of my life.
One morning at the conference, Andy Crouch led us in the practice of gratitude. We would sing the verses of the Gospel song, “Thank You Lord” and after each verse he had us turn to our neighbor and share what we were thankful for. The first time, he told us to share something small. We chose things like a good night’s sleep, a donut. The next time, something bigger. Think about the ways God has been faithful, he said. Well, let me tell you friend, all of a sudden I was crying.
I was moved as I looked around the chapel where I sat with my parents during my college orientation in 2008, where I attended chapel and school events with friends for years, where I learned what it looks like for me personally to worship, and where we wrapped up our college years in a baccalaureate service.
It was overwhelming when I thought about all the events, the tiny details, the seemingly normal conversations that all ended up working together to bring me to where I am today.
See, I believed for a long time that I was insignificant. In the big picture of the world, and in the eyes of God, I thought that I was too small. I was convinced that I flew under His radar, not worthy or capable of doing anything of significance, much less being someone of significance.
Now I look back, I remember, and His faithfulness is unmistakable; I could not ignore it if I tried.
I stood this week in the very place, the exact spot, in the middle of a road on campus where I remember praying, “Ok, Lord, I have never been to Denver. I do not know a soul there. But, I feel this peace about it that I cannot deny. I think I am going.”
I don’t know a soul there. Now, here I am, four and a half years later, sitting in a coffee shop surrounded by some Denver souls that I think my soul has always known. Don’t you feel that way about some people in your life? It is so impossible for me to imagine my life without them that it could not have been anything other than planned and purposed – known before I even existed.
This discipline, this beautiful practice of remembering – leads us into deeper intimacy with Christ. It leads us to a more full knowing of Him. It strengthens our knowledge of and trust in His goodness.
Even the hard things I remembered as I walked around my old college campus, the homesickness, the sadness, the SNOW, the uncomfortable dorm bed – even those are justified and redeemed as I see all the steps of my life come together into one coherent path.
This is why we practice the sacrament of communion. It is why we celebrate Christmas and Easter. Why we pay attention to Good Friday. To remember the love, the sacrifice, and the goodness of the Lord towards us. We come to His table – because we are invited there, all of us – to sit and be still and remember.
It is why even with trauma it is not healthy to repress – remembering leads us to healing. Even when things were not as they should have been, when things went wrong, when it hurt, we still need to remember. We remember so that we do not make the same mistakes again. So that we learn. We remember so that we do not hurt others in a way that people have been hurt before. So that we can experience reconciliation. It is why we teach history to the next generation. It matters. Our story, where we came from, matters. It shapes who we are.
We remember the body broken and the blood poured out on Calvary because it is our story. God giving His son so that we can be saved – we need to remember. We need to practice gratitude.
I had the great pleasure of spending time with my college mentor, who is still a mentor to me, and as I recounted the beauty of this remembering, she pointed me towards Exodus 3:12. After Moses sees the burning bush he asks God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharoah and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
God responds: “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”
God led me back to the mountain where He called me, and where He sent me out into the world.
We need to return, whether it is physically or just mentally, to these places. We need to live the liturgy of remembering.
Where can you look back on your places of commissioning, of anointing, and speak gratitude for His faithfulness to you?
It is when we get so busy, moving so fast, our lives so full of all we need to do, that we don’t have time to slow, to empty, to reflect. We have to make space for remembering. We need to create room to be grateful.
We do not always get these opportunities the way I did this past week, but we can still remember. Turn off the TV, put down the phone, spend some time in solitude practicing remembrance. Journey with God into the places you’ve been. In the hard and challenging times, ask Him to show you where He was all along the road. In the great and celebratory times, thank Him for His mercy and goodness towards you.
I still do not know so much about what is coming down the road for me, but I know this: He who promised is faithful.His character is unchanging, and He has been faithful thus far – so I can trust that He will continue to be faithful.