Tuesday, June 3, 2014

building memorials

Marking the seasons. Counting the days. It’s something we all do, especially when we find the calendar has turned yet again and we’re facing a whole season.

The days get ticked off, one by one. Slash marks across the calendar in my daughter’s room show the passage of time. One week from today and we’ll be looking at the last day of school, the last day of 5th, 3rd, and 2nd grades.

I get weepy at the thought of it. And then I bemoan my sentimentality. Why must I throw myself headlong into all of the emotions? Why do first and lasts and transitions bring on the choked back sobs? I’d like to simply blame it on hormones, but there is just more to it than that.

I think it’s because God calls us to remembrance, he wants us to be memorial builders. The Bible mentions building an altar for remembering and sacrificing over 300 times. Eighteen times God specifically tells his people to build a memorial, a place of memory for what God has done. 

We pass through many seasons in life. Some are good and some are absolutely terrible. Often, they’re a mixture of both. When one chapter closes we just can’t throw ourselves into the next. Or at least we shouldn’t. We need to pause. Just like the page break in a book that signifies the turning to another chapter, we need to break in our lives as well. We need a memorial to recall the former season, note its coming and going and even grieve over it’s passing. If its been a hard season, we grieve the conflicting feelings that cause us to wish it had been different. It’s okay to have funerals. At the end of a life lived well, we grieve the passing. At the end of a hard life, we mourn the could have or should have been. And we must do the same with our lives.

Our emotions are rather complicated, but as a society we tend to stuff them down, drown the out, cover them up. I think there’s a reason the people of the Bible hired wailers and mourners to come when someone had died. We must allow for the expression of our emotions. 

So whether June’s arrival finds you jubilant or regretful, it’s okay to embrace that scope of emotions. We grieve if we need to, we laugh if we should. Note the anger or bitterness over things we can’t understand; have a funeral, just don’t hang out at the grave site. We deal with those very human emotions as they come.

This time of year finds me a mixed bag. I’m feeling excited for the next, but mourning the too quick passing of the years behind. And it’s all okay. We just need to remember that we live in the right now, and we’ll miss it if we’re too busy feeling bitterness or anger about the past. Today will pass right by if we’re too busy looking ahead to the next.

Marking the seasons and having funerals doesn’t seem like a very optimistic outlook to life. But it’s real. We all have transitions; a job ends, a relationship sours, a graduation cap is thrown off, a child is born, or a loved one dies. We can’t just walk on. We have to stop to build the memorials, grab the stones, write the names, bury the past with all respect and allow God to lead us to the next.

One very practical thing I do to mark the season is write letters. If it’s been a tough season I write them and burn them. I allow the emotions, raw and red, the fill the page and then it gets consumed. Or, sometimes I find a stone and write a little note to mark the season, including something that will remind me how God met me there. It’s a small thing, but not unlike the memorials we erect to remember loved ones who have passed. 

On the way to the next, it’s okay to stop and honor the past. It happened, good or bad, and we lived it. I think the most frightening thing is to move on like it never happened. I want to remember, not to wallow in the past but to recall the ways God’s led me out.

If I could, I'd give you all a stone and pen to build your moment. And I'd give us all permission to grieve the past and the should have been. Then together, we can choose to turn and live in the right now.

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