Reflecting and Remembering
by Stacy Mathews
What started out as a fun Snapfish project has become a yearly tradition. I go through our pictures from last year and curate a calendar for the next year. I try sticking to pictures that happened in the same month the previous year. It has been a wonderful way to remember what we were doing a year ago. These calendars have become a scrapbook of sorts. A photo can quickly take me back to a flood of happy thoughts and all the feels of a given moment. In a similar way, real emotions can hit me when I am remembering a hard event or situation from the past year, though I don’t tend to document those moments with photos.
This past year has been one that will not be quickly forgotten, and we all probably have many mental pictures attached to the year, besides the actual ones. So now that we are well into March 2021, I want to pose a question for myself and for us.
What pictures surface in your heart this Spring?
Will you remember when Spring Break came a little early and then kept extending longer and longer? Was it fun at first and then it turned into the reality of Covid-life, a reality much more grim for some than for others?
I think at some level we were all caught off guard by the pandemic and the ensuing unknown changes that would occur in our lives. I am not bringing this up to evoke some trauma that you are trying to forget but to call us to reflect and remember, and to be intentional with the way we process the past year.
Reflecting gives us an opportunity to learn and grow, and remembering gives us reason to hope and fix our gaze on Jesus. I would like to offer a few reasons for both reflecting and remembering as we mark a significant point in history and in our own stories.
The first encouragement is to reflect. What are some things you have learned from being quarantined or sheltered for 12 months? Are there things you can rejoice over and thank God for? Are there sins that have come to the surface that you want to turn from and submit to God? These don’t have to be big things, major sins or commitments like a New Year's resolutions list, but maybe something quiet and small that the Spirit keeps bringing up and nudging at your soul.
I have come to a few points of realization this year. One is that, while I am an introvert and am recharged by being alone, I have a new understanding of the need for fellowship and relationships. It’s not just a nice thing but actually something that God created and graciously provides for his people, especially in the context of church. Last year, having a few people over to do church together was profoundly impactful, and often the ladies in my Bible study bubble have been the truth speakers that I need to hear God’s word through. There have also been lonely days and weeks where I’ve felt like this whole schooling thing and motherhood is weighty on my shoulders and I am going down this road for so long without a break. Those days are hard. Have you been there too?
What about reflecting on the significant role the church plays in our spiritual walk. I remember the day it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken communion with the body of Christ in months. I was saddened to think that it took me months to really notice this was missing. It has created a yearning to be with my brothers and sisters in the Lord. Like never before, I am valuing being in a room with believers worshipping together and hearing the word of God preached. I pray that my kids will remember this time when they are older and value church as a vital part of their relationship with Christ. I knew in my head before but now I know in my heart that the weekly rhythms of church impact my daily walk. This is something I hadn’t fully grasped until it was absent. God set it up to keep my mind and heart growing with other believers in the context of church. It is for good reason that the author of Hebrews instructs us this way:
Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25)
What about reflecting on the polarization of recent times? Have you felt tension with family members? With your good friends? Co-workers? Maybe even your spouse? It has been hard—really hard. It’s impossible to deny that there are differences in thinking and action in regard to things like politics and race...and masks. Yet we are called to be unified in Christ. Some days this doesn’t feel possible. Are there things you have learned? Things you regret saying, thinking, or feeling? I know I can think of some. Can we purpose to reflect with humble hearts?
I am personally learning so much, and have so much still to learn. I know I will continue to hurt those around me, but by God’s grace, I am committed to repentance and forgiveness, and to keep growing. Part of me has had days of deep discouragement and grief over these things. While other days part of me sees that these difficult times could be what the Lord uses to challenge and change the church (little “c” and big “C”) and us as its members for the better. I want to be a part of that.
This is also a time to remember. The Bible often calls us to recall his character and kindness to us.
Forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. (Ps 103:2–4)
Any time is a time to remember who God is and that he created us to reflect him and give him the praise and worship he deserves.
Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. (1 Chronicles 29:11)
This is also a time to remember our bond with each other. I think it is safe to say that we can all find some commonality in going through a pandemic together. Could this experience stir up a new kind of compassion for one another? One that cares deeply for our brothers and sisters, that acknowledges that there has been grief and loss and stress at different levels of all kinds in each of us.
My hope is that remembering would draw me to want to listen to others and care for one another. It has impacted us all differently, but we can at least identify with each other in experiencing varied emotions this past year. And we can for sure find commonality in our hope in the finished work of Christ and that our salvation means a life beyond here that is in God’s presence forever. Now that is unifying and something to sing about!
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:4–7)
I find myself challenged to remember the joys from this past year, and to offer them as sacrifices of praise. Maybe you have a hard time thinking of any joys from this past year. Maybe you are just in a time of grieving for now. That is ok. A new season will come.
Some of the small joys in our home that we have tried to remind ourselves of are the little things. Like being able to sleep in a tiny bit before school since we didn’t have to drive there anymore. Or the kids and I having time to eat lunch together or take a walk in the middle of the day. And we’ve been able to grow from having to say sorry to each other so often and forgive each other and move past it, because we are always with each other.
One special result has been doing video call piano lessons with my mom and the kids. We haven’t been able to visit her and my dad down in Southern Oregon because of their various health issues, so this past year my mom has had one-on-one time with each of our kids over video. They are building a sweet relationship that did not previously exist.
Recently, it has been joyful to see our favorite restaurants open up and school starting to open for a few hours a week. I feel a pull in my heart quickly wanting things to feel “normal” again. I know it will take time and honestly, I hope that not everything goes back to the way it was before. This is where I sense the Holy Spirit’s nudge for pause, to intentionally reset some of the rhythms of our life and not jump too quickly to what I think is comfortable or normal. Maybe a year from now I will be grateful for the ways God used this crisis to shift my thinking and daily living to draw our family closer to Him.
I hope we will reflect and remember this Spring. I hope we will take some time to listen to the Lord, talk about it as a family, or write it down. Thankfully, God has and will remain faithful in spite of us. Let us grieve the losses, confess the sin, forgive those who have hurt us, thank God for the little joys, and hope for heaven together. We have been changed by this year. May we humbly let it be for the glory of God and his kingdom as we continue to walk this road, whatever it brings.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)