"I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3 (NIV)
When I walk through the door he points his finger at me, a confused smile on his face.
“And you are …?”
“I’m your favorite daughter-in-law, and don’t you forget it,” I say, laughing. It’s an old joke, but it’s new to him every single time.
My once strong patriarchal father-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been a 10-year journey. Like a chalkboard that is slowly erased, his memories of us have faded away.
Recently we traveled to stay with him. As we were leaving, he pulled my husband, Richard, aside.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“I’m your oldest son,” Richard said one more time.
His dad pulled a tattered wallet from his pocket and drew out a $20 bill. With tears he said, “Take this. You’ve been a good son.”
Richard left the money with his mom, but took something far more precious with him.
For a moment, his dad remembered.
My father-in-law’s struggle has taught us the power of remembering. Though my father-in-law’s memory has been stolen by disease, there are other things that rob us of that gift.
Sometimes I allow one painful moment to rob me of memories. A friend says something insensitive, or I argue with a loved one, and poof! All the good memories we’ve ever shared disappear, as I concentrate on that incident and build a case against her.
There are times I allow busyness to steal memories. I pile appointments on my calendar, forgetting that it’s just as valuable to play or talk with those around me.
There are seasons where I’ve wished away my memories: I can’t wait until they get older. I can’t wait until it’s spring. I can’t wait until I accomplish that goal. I can’t wait until things get easier.
In every season of life there are memories in the making. Like those of God’s faithfulness. Memories I’ll treasure as I run a finger across a photo. Memories of trusting God in every step of a new adventure.
When the book of Philippians was penned, it was a letter. As was the custom at that time, the first few lines of Paul’s letter was actually the “wrap-up.” A writer would pen the letter, finish it and then go back and write the first few lines as a summary.
This was Paul’s summary of his beautiful letter to the church of Philippi:
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:1-3, NIV).
Many of the letters Paul wrote aimed to fix problems or remind a church to follow Jesus. This letter is different; Paul is in chains as he writes. The believers in Philippi offered support for Paul’s ministry during his imprisonment. They made a difficult time bearable, and that brought Paul joy.
The wrap-up was to simply say, “I thank God every time I remember you.”
I wonder what might happen in my own life if I focused on the wrap-up first.
Sure, we had an argument, but when I look at the big picture so many good memories are there. Let’s work through this.
Yes, life is busy, but when I look at what matters, memories will trump accomplishments. So let’s slow it down a bit and just enjoy the moment.
Yes, this season is hard, but maybe I’ll consider what God is doing in the midst of this season instead of wishing it away.
When we last saw my father-in-law, he was singing a song from his childhood. It was another rare moment. I’ll never forget his smile when we sang the last line with him.
Remembering is a valuable gift. Help us, Lord, to make, protect and treasure those sweet memories.
Dear Lord, help me remember the good in people. Help me remember what is important. Help me not to wish my life away, but to see the precious memories in each season. And, may I always remember Your goodness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 77:11, “I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old.” (KJV)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
It’s tempting to forget what matters, but we are invited to see the bigger picture.
If you’ve been hurt by a friend, remember the good. If you’ve been living in a whirlwind, explore ways you can slow down just a bit. If you’ve been wishing away a season, ask God to show you the memories and miracles you are making right now.
© 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.