portrait of a life: remembrance

Working from home has reminded me how much I love mornings and, at the same time, how little I pause to appreciate them.

Birds sing songs of good morning, a cardinal perched on my fence. Dogs are barking somewhere in the neighborhood, probably just to make sure everyone’s up and at ’em.

The coolness of mornings, the moisture and feel and air; the world unfurling underneath rays of sun. Everything so beautiful and yet so under-appreciated.

The quarantine due to COVID-19 has given me space to reflect on much more than just mornings and I’ve done my deepest thinking in those hours when the world’s waking up. Although it is not morning as I write this, I recall its sweetness. My loneliness feels exacerbated by the current state of the world, but it is in times like these I find soft moments of magic in the day-to-day. Such as:

Yesterday, Spotify was playing on shuffle and a song came on – a song I used to listen to often, but had not heard in years. The familiarity of it was comforting to me, so I stopped what I was doing to listen more carefully. I had a strong emotional reaction to it, but for the first few moments, I could not figure out why. I remembered how I used to play it on repeat for days at a time, but the significance of it was lost to me. Was I going through a hard time and it comforted me? Was there something in the lyrics I found particularly profound? I kept listening, hoping I would eventually discover what it was about it that had enraptured me all those years before.

And then I remembered, and the tears came.

The song is Born Again by Third Day and up until yesterday, I had forgotten it had even existed. But, many years ago, when I was just in junior high, the song had a strong influence on my life and thanks to Spotify, I rediscovered it.

My dad had built a custom swing-set in our backyard and if you were ever looking for me during those formative years of my adolescence, chances are you could find me there. I would go out with my MP3 player, and I would swing for hours as I listened to music and daydreamed.

There were several songs I would listen to on repeat on those swinging days in my backyard. Born Again was one of them. Over and over, the soothing voice of Third Day’s frontman washing over me as I pumped my legs higher and higher into the air.

And I would daydream of a house for wayward teenagers, the kids no one wanted. Kids who were rejected by society and who kept getting into trouble, all gathered in one place in a sprawling countryside home where they were mentored, loved, taken care of, and shown the love of Jesus.

It was a home I wanted to open and run. Taking in those teenagers was something I wanted to do more than anything else in the world, and there was something about that Third Day song that made me imagine just what a place like that could be.

So on repeat it would play, the swing-set shifting in its setting as I soared, thinking of all the ways I wanted to change the world.

And then, one day, without warning, the song stopped playing. Maybe it was because my swing broke and I never replaced it. Maybe it was because I thought the dream was too stupid and unattainable. Maybe it was because I thought I needed some kind of degree, some kind of education to make a dream like that happen and maybe I thought it was impossible for me to get that degree or education.

But, whatever it was, I stopped thinking about it.

Until Spotify brought that song back up from the depths somewhere and started playing it randomly on a Tuesday afternoon.

I kept it on repeat yesterday, for old times’ sake, tears welling in my eyes as I recalled for the first time in years a long ago dream, a deeply buried desire for what I wanted to do with my life.

My love in life is people, as varied and complex as they are, and I want nothing more this side of heaven than to help them see how wonderful they are.

I felt rejuvenated yesterday, reconnected with a part of myself I have left by the wayside for a long time. I don’t know what to do now, other than just keep listening to that song and asking Jesus what he wants me to do, pressing into the mornings, paying attention, getting reacquainted with all the things I’ve left buried under hurry.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that I chose to shuffle my music yesterday, certainly no coincidence that that particular song began to play. There is something so holy about remembering. In a fear of dwelling on the past, I worry more about the future and what it will look like and what I need to do to make it another day.

But, it was Jesus who said of communion, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

There is a sacred unity that happens in the holiness of recollection. Recalling to mind of all the times God showed up for me, of all the things he has made new, of all the dreams he has placed and stirred within me.

Anyone will tell you: if you want to know what your passions are, think about what you wanted to do when you were a kid. When the world was still a conquerable thing, nothing impossible.

I pause in the reverence of recognition and recollection, praying it will be enough to persuade me to action. I have asked God, “What’s next?”

I wait patiently for the answer, listening to the birds sing and dogs bark, the cardinal sitting almost as invitation.

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