My mom sent me a wonderful little package a few days ago containing an unexpected surprise: a book.
And not just any book: Goodbye to Good Ol’ Charlie. It was a young adult book that I’d read back when I was still in elementary school. During those halcyon days in the summer Mom took me to the library once a week to check out as many books as I could get my hands on. Goodbye was one of those, and it became a staple; I checked it out every other week, read it as many times as I could, and laughed until I cried at Charlie’s antics and his attempt to make friends and invent a new identity in his new hometown. I had large sections of it memorized.
The book, insofar as I can tell, is largely out of print these days. My mom only managed to get it with the help of my uncle who managed to locate it through a minor miracle. And when I sat down with it, I couldn’t help but wonder: will it be as good as I remember? I’ll admit that I opened it with some trepidation, hoping I wouldn’t ruin the memory of the book by reading it again in the present.
I needn’t have worried. Some of the references were dated (hanging up telephones on hooks! snail mail with no Internet!) but the book read as funny and as sharp to present-me as past-me. I finished it in under two hours, laughing at the same things I’d laughed at as a child, loving the dialogue, loving the characters.
It’s comforting, sometimes, to go back and remember good things from the past.
I had that in mind when I discovered recently that our church is holding an Ash Wednesday event and that our pastor has encouraged us to consider the season of Lent as a time of spiritual preparation and renewal. I grew up in a church where Lent and Ash Wednesday were negligible events, and so this is new for me. Before, I only knew Lent as “that time when people who may or may not have been Christians decided to give up a habit for a while and then announce it to everyone.”
But our pastor has made it clear that Lent is more than “giving up a habit.” He encouraged us to engage in special acts of service, or to fast, or to tithe extra, or to add a special prayer to our routine – just a little something to prepare us for Easter. And so my mother’s gift and the fond memories it inspired has encouraged me to do at least one thing: to take some time each day and dwell on the best memories of my walk with God.
I’ve loved God since I became a Christian, but He has loved me longer. And my mother’s gift has reminded me that the past can be important to celebrating the present. As Easter approaches, I want to remember who Jesus is – not just to the world, but to me. I want to think about what I know of Him, and realize how much there is yet to know. I want to rejoice in the good memories and marvel that there will be more. I want to remember the trying times, and His presence in them, and know that there will be more of those, too.
Most of all, I want to realize again that the grand-scale, world-shattering, epic sacrifice of Easter – one of the most passionate moments in the great Story – has rippled all the way out across history and time and space to now, to here, to my tiny little life among all the millions of other tiny little lives that have been and are and will be – and that the blood shed there has saved me here.
As we work through the Lent season, I’ll periodically be posting pieces meant to work as heart-preparation for the season. I hope you’ll join me, and that you’ll take the time to sit back and remember some of your own “best memories” with Jesus – that all begin, of course, with that sacrifice.