Ken Reed: When the landscape changes
As age creeps up on me, I find myself recalling where things once stood.
When I return to my hometown of Hickory to visit family, I habitually tell my sons, ěLook! That empty lot is where my elementary school was. I played baseball on this field, before it was weeds and kudzu. That was once a playground with dangerous slides and wobbly monkey bars. Look! This used car lot was a Dairy Queen where I worked as a teenager. I hiked and rode bikes with my friends in these woods before it was a housing development.î
Yes, I am quite predictable in recalling where things once stood. I canít help it.
Am I sentimental? No, but I do have bright and colorful memories of my youth and itís hard not to point out what once was: the old Harris-Teeter store where Dad worked when I was born (now a fitness center), the old horse barn (now a dirt pile), the old bowling alley where Mom would send me for chili dogs (now a tire store), and the hospital where I was born. (Iím not really sure what that is now, but it hasnít been a hospital since the Nixon administration.)
When things change around us, changes happen within us. These places are not life-altering for me and do not necessarily make me sentimental. However, they fondly remind me of what once was.
As a pastor, I serve congregation members who are very gracious to invite me into the sacred space of their families during times of grief, loss and change. These moments are often filled with trauma and shock or peace and relief (and sometimes all of the above). I consider it an honor and a humbling task to enter a situation with prayer, a reading from the Bible, healing conversation and even silence. Amid the tension there is always a story to tell, and it begins in the past.
When have you experienced something like this before? What helped you the most? How did you respond?
How did you experience the presence of Christ?
When we begin to recall past events, places and people, we have an opportunity recall Godís active presence within the significant parts of our lives. This is more than pointing out the former locations of a school, a baseball field or other childhood stomping ground. But when I seriously ponder those life moments that seem heavy and unholy, I find the holy. Or, more honestly, the holy finds me.
At the recent death of an older member, the loving memories of my own grandparents filled my heart. Speaking to grieving grandchildren I shared with them something they already knew: ěYou will always remember their words, what they looked like, where they stood, and what they did. Treasure those visual reminders and continue to tell those stories. Just as your grandparents were a gift from God, your spoken and unspoken memories of them are a gift of healing from God.î
When grief hovers over us or even seems to consume us, the Old Testament Psalms repeatedly call us to remember, remember, remember.
Psalm 77, verses 11-13: ěI will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles from long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds. Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God?î
The changing landscape of a new school, job or relationship, retirement, a family move, or even a newly emptied nest can create a strong sense of grief and loss often associated with death.
Recalling our experiences and stories presents a needed step for healing.
Recalling Godís holy presence in our lives presents a living reminder that God is the source of all life and hope and healing. Truly, that is a great story to tell.
The Rev. Ken Reed serves Concordia Lutheran Church-NALC in China Grove. firstname.lastname@example.org.