Even in times of pandemics, it’s still a surprise and a joy to meet your past. That is, as we live our lives, from time to time we make an effort to secure those memories of our “just lived” times, and we wrap them up carefully and store them in the closets of our brains until that sometime comes when we play the game, “Do you remember?...” I would think the most tragic injury or disease of all would be one in which we would lose our past, and lose the ability to recall what once was. To only live in the here and now is a very narrow existence.
So, the other evening, Cheri told me that she ran into one of the preschool teachers who taught both our sons. Not recently, of course – it occurred when our family lived on the north side of Fargo in the early 90s. So, 30 years ago we created a relationship, as the preschool used part of the church I served. It was actually a delightful and fun experience, especially when one of the teachers would sneak over during school because they needed to tell me something adorable that one or the other of our sons had done. Since the boy were indeed both adorable and witty and sweet, it was easy for them to fall in love with the little guys.
As Cheri recounted her visit, it was fun to hear how three decades later the memories of both sides had been kept and treasured. For instance, every St. Patrick’s Day, the kids would come into the school and find that it had been ransacked by a marauding leprechaun! Chairs were tipped over, toys were strewn over the floor, and worst of all, the toilet water had been turned green… The kids in the school had to go to work cleaning everything up, and in the course of the cleaning, they would discover a treasure chest accidentally left by the leprechaun, and inside was gold – gold wrapped chocolates, of course, which for 4 year olds is better than the real thing.
My mind and memories started becoming unwrapped and laid before my brain as Cheri talked. One of the funniest ones came when the teachers told me about a special relationship Adam had struck up in school. Apparently an alliance was created between Adam and a little girl named Brittany (what else could her name be?). It was nothing romantic – in fact, it sounded like it was all business. During the time when the kids would have unstructured play, Adam and Brittany would pickup their implements of righteous destruction. Brittany would get the fly swatter, and Adam would pick up the little toy iron.
The work that followed was for the betterment of the children in the school. As it happens in a lot of places, especially in the fall, the flies in the neighborhood look for warm places to hang out, and with the door constantly opened and closed, apparently there were a number of flies who congregated on the windows of the pre-school. The process was simple: Brittany would identify the fly, and swat it as hard as her four-year-old arms could swing, which frankly was never lethal. She did have a good aim, however, and the fly, stunned a bit from the swat, would end up on the floor. At this point, Adam would sweep in and unleash the death stroke: he would take the little iron, and smash the fly. The teachers told the story, and said that the two took little time to reflect on their hunting result, and immediately went to find the next fly victim.
I remembered thinking with parental pride that Adam was able to develop such a skill, and that he wasn’t frittering away his free time with something silly like playing with a toy. Even today, when I think about that story, it’s cherished, as a silly and sweet, and purely Adam and Brittany-based activity.
How much fun it was to revisit the past, and Cheri and I took some more time to remember the stories, as we opened the closet wide and allowed them to tumble out into the front of our minds. Now, I’m fully aware that very soon, we will restack the stories and close that door, but hopefully some other act, or meeting will trigger another closet being opened, and only sweet, memorable recollection will come out. Of course I know that sometimes, the ugly dark memories show their heads as well, and if we are not careful, we find ourselves caught in the unhappy times past, in conflicts that still are not resolved, or wounds that years later have still not healed completely, and with a return to those places, we rediscover either fear or sadness or that sour taste in our mouths that should have gone away forever, but yet they linger.
I’m not going to say that we should just ignore and forget the bad things that happen in our lives. First of all, it’s not possible to do so, and those “things” have a role in our formation as mature persons today. However, I will say that our lives are better spent enjoying and recounting the feelings of hope and happiness that we once shared with someone, instead of refighting the battle or the conflict or the grief that once consumed us.
When I talk about an intentional life, I mean to live a life in which you and I are clear about what we hope to have and do and experience. If we are clear about what we want to do, then why would we spend any time at all reliving the bad parts of our lives? Sure, they will always be in our minds, but when the closet door accidentally opens, as our brains are triggered by some incident today, or some long forgotten memory, why would not intentionally work to close that door, and no longer give it power over our lives?
My hope, in my life, would be to learn that important skill of not allowing things to consume or take over my mind when I could instead, find the places of light and joy. I believe that could serve as a daily prayer to God: Please give me the ability to recall what is beautiful, and love-ly, and to leave behind anything that would distract me from living my life with You, Loving God.
Have a good day, and a good memory…
Word(s) for the day: jectigation and jactitation. I tied two words for today, since they are both rarely used, and the same in their root, but rather different in their definition. Pronounced jeck-ti-GAY-shun, and jack-ti-TAY-shun, the words both come from the same Latin word, jacere, which means “to throw.” Jectigation takes the root, and is defined as “wagging,” like a dog’s tail, or someone shaking their head quickly. “Look how Rover is so happy to see us! He is jectigating!” That really doesn’t sound very good, and it may be why that word is pretty much in disuse. “Wagging” is much simpler.
Jactitation, however, is much more substantial. This word also “throws,” but it really means to slander, in one sense, or to throw around false claims, or to brag or boast, as one tosses out anything he or she wishes, no matter how valid or true it happens to be. I’ve always said, “Don’t believe everything you think.” That goes for what you think of others, or you think of yourself. Sometimes it’s better to just be silent, and let the dog wag its tail.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.