Adjusting the side and rear view mirrors, I started up my white rental car. Driving down the highway, I tried to get my bearings. It’s been years since I’ve driven the suburbs of our nation’s capital. I passed the exit for my grandparent’s house and tears stung my eyes. It hit me hard, realizing that they’ve been gone a few years now.
I visited my old church and found it had been completely remodeled. The pastor who married us has retired and moved away. Nothing looks the same. And neither do the people. My sister tells me that the mall I used to frequent as a teen has been bulldozed to the ground to make way for something completely new. I learned from my aunt that the farm where she used to live was sold and houses now stand where my sister and I used to run and explore (remember when I wrote about that farm here?).
Have you ever left someplace you’ve lived and then returned a number of years later? It’s amazing how much things change, isn’t it? Our past is preserved like snapshots in our mind. Whenever we think of a place from our past, we see it just as we remember it. And then when we visit it in the present, the clash between today and yesterday can leave us reeling.
In the past few weeks, I’ve returned to my home town for my sister’s bridal shower and then for her wedding. My mind was overwhelmed by images from the past facing the reality of the present. While people are preserved in my mind from fifteen years ago, they have in reality aged. Life goes on.
It’s easier to forget the past when I reside so far away. But driving through familiar streets made childhood memories flood my mind. Seeing extended family gathered together to celebrate a wedding reminded me of past gatherings and of those who are now missing.
While in many ways it saddens me that things have changed and that life has gone on since I’ve moved away, it also means that the wounds that linger in my memory from times past are just that–memories. This visit is a great reminder of all that God has done in my life these many years. He has brought me from a place of timidity, insecurity and uncertainty to a place of confidence in Him and His plan for my life. No longer do the sorrows and wounds from childhood rule and define me. Where once I thought I’d be chained to a family legacy of secrets, bitterness, rage and anger, I have instead been freed to create a new legacy and new memories.
It is also a reminder that God is redeeming all things, even the past. For while I look at people from my past and see painful memories, they have not remained there in the past. They have in fact moved on and changed. The same painful circumstances that God has used to change me, He has also used to change others. When I push away those memories and see others for who they are now, God’s redeeming power humbles me.
Visiting the past can be painful. But there is joy there too. For it reveals the way God has always been there. Reading the previous chapters of our life from where we are currently in redemption’s story, we can see how far God has brought us. The refining He has done, the wounds He has healed, and the ways we have grown in our love for Him are all evident. Our past can become memorial stones, a testimony of God’s redemptive love poured out in our lives.
And as I witnessed my sister’s wedding, the past and present merged into a beautiful image of the way God rescues and redeems. Because one day we will walk down the aisle, perfect in beauty and radiant in holiness, and join our Bridegroom for an eternity of never-ending bliss and happiness with the One our hearts were made for.
Joining the gratitude community and thanking my Savior for (#1874-1885):
The power of redemption, even over the past
The way God continues to be at work
That He is making all things new
Going to DC for my sister’s wedding
Having time to take the kids to the city to see the Spy Museum, new MLK monument, Smithsonian
Seeing my boys excited about being in the wedding
Watching my little sister get married
Seeing family members I hadn’t seen for a while
The beautiful fall weather
Getting to know my sister’s new family
Flying from DC to Atlanta to continue our time away
Linking up with these friends: