This week I had the privilege of speaking at a chapel service at my alma mater, Mount Vernon Nazarene University. It was a blessing and I greatly appreciated seeing good friends again, sharing laughter and memories, and realizing that even though you remodel a building several times it will still smell the same. The talk I gave had a lot to do with the challenges and failures I faced as an undergrad. I wanted to make sure the students in attendance understood that the beautiful narrative of our lives is often written on a torn manuscript. My time at MVNU was beautiful, painful, poignant and ignorant all at the same time because I was being shaped and molded for my future education - for my future ministry - for my future in general and as a whole.
It led me to think about how potent memory is in the process of being formed to be like Christ, and it seems appropriate that during a week when we look backward to the events surrounding Jesus' death and resurrection that we grasp why all this remembering and commemorating is important.
1. Remembering brings humility. When we can look back and see the places where we blew it, where we overreached or gave less than our full heart and attention to what God was doing, it humbles us. We realize that we aren't fool-proof or invincible (see 2 Corinthians 12), but that we are greatly in need of God's wisdom and discernment on a daily basis.
2. Remembering brings perspective. Every chapter leads into the next - even in our lives. When teaching the overarching themes of the Bible, I talk about how each act (Creation, Fall, Israel, Jesus and the Church) leads into each other and is dependent on one another for meaning and significance. In the same way, our lives are what they are because of the preceding chapter. When Paul talks in the Scriptures about being a Pharisee with professional credentials (Philippians 3:4-11) he is telling the story of where the narrative had been but then changes it to reflect where the story is going. We are who we are because of the preceding chapters of our lives - good, bad and ugly - because God is a master craftsman in the story of redemption, reclamation, and restoration.
3. Remembering brings hope. Resurrection, celebrated at Easter and remembered each time we rise from a deep sleep, brings hope. If death doesn't have the last word, then everything that threatens us falls aside. When we remember that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is now at work in us - and has been in the past as well - we begin to see the future with hopeful lenses and we begin to naturally move into rhythms that shape our lives around resurrection instead of destruction. We look back and see mini-resurrections everywhere - places where God breathed hot life into our fading spirits and brought us through the valley of the shadow of death one more time.
This Easter, give yourself fully to remembering. Remember your humorous failures and laugh a resurrection laugh in their face - remember your tremble-inducing failures and confidently turn your gaze to the empty tomb where all death has been banished by the Pierced One, made whole for us so that we may be whole again.