The soil, caked on my gloved hand, is heavy and wet as I pull out what remains of my flower garden. Roots like thread wrap around the balls of black dirt in my hands. An early snowfall in October and the following rain delayed what I should have done months ago.
I close the wooden doors to my “secret garden” and shuffle back to the garage with empty pots in hand. My thoughts flash back to warmer days. I recall the blush color of the crab tree, the maple’s eggplant tone and the linden’s vibrant green. The corner of my garden provided the perfect view of these 3 trees that now stand bare, thin branches pressed against the December sky.
I remember the summer months when colorful blooms greeted me, and the morning sunshine fell on the stone, creeping up to cover the growing shoots in light. Now stacks of patio chairs and a bin of dirt replace the pots once filled with growing flowers and vegetables.
Everything has shifted – the wind is now cold and damp, the sky gray, the frost clings to the dirt, creating a crusty top layer. But as I dig out the old roots and salvage the soil for next year, I’m not discouraged. Though my breath forms small clouds now, I recall the warmth of the sun and the dozens of shoots popping out of the earth and anticipate the return of spring and summer. Yes, even as I stand in the middle of a barren garden, my remembrance of the past fuels my hope for the future.
But I’m prone to forget. I’m tempted to allow what is barren and empty now seize my hope for future beauty. I’m prone to fear. I’m tempted to believe that remembrance of past beauty and goodness can only live as nostalgia. Does remembrance only mock present pain and barrenness?
Like the sprouts in my garden, my thoughts begin to push upwards. Maybe remembrance isn’t meant to lock me in the past (what was “beautiful” or “better” or “nostalgic” then) but is designed to push me forward. Instead of striking fear in me over what was lost, remembrance grounds me to hope for what will be restored.
And then there’s You.
Your marvelous deeds, Your wonderful acts – how could I forget what You have done? Forgive me for labeling remembrance as a luxurious pastime. Remembering You and what you have done can’t be saved for later. It can’t wait for quiet rooms and empty spaces and wide open fields (although those can be valued and sacred opportunities). Instead, may I remember You in the stuffed up places of my mind, in the rooms filled with commotion and needs, in the midst of frustrations and setbacks. Because in the open spaces of joy and the confined places of hurt, You are near and calling me to turn to You. You are at work in the most unlikely places, inviting me to remember You and all You have done.
Is that not what remembrance is? To recall Your presence, to fix my eyes upon You, the author and finisher of my faith. (Hebrews 12:2) To know that Your faithfulness extends to all generations. In gazing upon You, Lord, I begin to see the truth – to remember the past, the good things of old that You accomplished, leads me to hope in the future, to hope in You.
“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal: the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand. I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.'” (Psalm 77:10-12)
I will remember.
Just as You called the Israelites to remember Your faithfulness to them, to recall all the times You delivered them from their enemies, help us remember; for Your marvelous acts are not sporadic happenings but purposeful displays of Your faithfulness. When we’d rather plunge deeper into forgetful despair, lead us back to You, dear Lord.
This Advent season, may we remember You. Therein lies our hope. You are our Hope. In our wandering, when we had turned our backs on You, You remembered us. In Jesus Christ, You have come near to us. When realities were bleak and lives were broken, You came among us, to heal and restore. We remember Your humble arrival, Your redeeming life and death, Your glorious resurrection and ascension. And in our remembrance, we have sure hope for what is to come.
May we not forget, may we not fear. Because You have remembered us, because You have come near to us, we have every reason to rejoice!