There is a kind of courage that comes from remembering. My Lucy taught me this.
I had gotten us lost on a butterfly trail (my kids and me, that is), and by the time I had sorted out what the issue was and gotten us halfway back to our car, Lucy didn’t care anymore. I lifted Gabriel up for a turn on my shoulders, and she plopped her four-year old self down in the middle of the trail and cried.
After trying everything I could think of to get her to walk again (promises, praying, pretending to walk ahead, praying, “I’m-your-mother-and-you-have-to-obey-me,” praying…), I sat the others down in the shade and turned to get her. Then as I walked her to them, I started to remind her of all of the things we had done in that shady area the first time we had been there, back before we had gotten lost.
“Look up there, Lucy. That dove is still there! I wonder if he has a nest somewhere in that tree. And do you see over that way? That’s the bluebird box where Abby and Sammy were peeking. Do you remember when we stopped at that bench over there to rest while they looked? And do you see that turn in front of us? That goes to that shaded path where we saw so many butterflies; do you remember? And do you remember that after we get to that path, we have one more turn, and then we’re back to our car?”
I didn’t say any of these things because I was wise. I said them because I was desperate, and I certainly didn’t expect the remarkable thing that happened...
When I put Lucy down on the grass next to her brother, she smiled. Not only that – she stood up, and she started to run toward the turn in the path that would lead us back to our car and, after that, to home.
Remembering is powerful.
I’ve been thinking about the hard work of wandering and how brutal it is – not like hard work that brings satisfaction or rejuvenation. The work of wandering is often isolating and unsettling – enough to cause any four (or forty!) year old to want to plop down and cry, enough to make them seem like they can’t – or don’t want to – come back.
I’ve been thinking about the hard work of wandering and how brutal it is
Yet there is a little girl sleeping peacefully upstairs while I type this, and she taught me that the same path that evokes despair can be a source of encouragement, and the difference is in the remembering. Remembering can blow softly into the places that pleas and threats fail to find, breathing new life and resurrecting old. I think there is a reason the Bible is full of reminders to remember – in passages as well known as the Last Supper and as seemingly small as the Song of Moses.
It seems to me that when parents and friends, pastors and poets speak words that help us remember the deepest truths, they are doing some of the holiest of work.
In light of that, I wonder if we could start to build reminding and remembering habits – just to make exhausting paths a little friendlier for the tired wanderers among us. I wonder if, when we love someone who belongs to Jesus and has gotten lost, we could look for ways to keep reminding them about the things they used to know. I wonder if, when we ourselves are lost, we could let the ones who love us remind us of the things we used to know.
And then who knows? Maybe if we learn to counter the despair with remembering each time it finds us… maybe it will help us to see that the path back is not as impossible as we feared.
Maybe we, like Lucy, will smile and run home.