What's so precious about them?
OK, go sentimental with me this week. I'm remembering. When planning my blog thoughts for the week my mind raced back to childhood and early life at West Greenville Baptist Church, Greenville, South Carolina. Our grandfather, Rev. O.F. Owens was pastor. Many Sundays he would go to the pulpit and announce that the quartet was going to sing. The quartet at that time was N.J. Carroll, Homer Smith, Paul Ducker, and Mavis Ducker who sang and played the piano. As clear as day I can still hear them singing the old Baptist standard Precious Memories. The lyrics didn't stir me as much then as they do now.
Precious memories, unseen angels Sent from somewhere to my soul How they linger, ever near me And the sacred scenes unfold. Precious memories, how they linger How they ever flood my soul In the stillness of the midnight Precious, sacred scenes unfold. Precious father, loving mother Fly across the lonely years And old home scenes of my childhood In fond memory appear. In the stillness of the midnight Echoes from the past I hear Old-time singing, gladness bringing From that lovely land somewhere. I remember mother praying Father, too, on bended knee Sun is sinking, shadows falling But their prayers still follow me. As I travel on life's pathway Know not what the years may hold As I ponder, hope grows fonder Precious memories flood my soul.
These many years later I've learned that the darker, more ominous circumstances and events in life are etched more indelibly in our memory banks than the good ones. Evidently the human mind processes the more difficult realities of life with a greater sense of urgency and thought, which registers them more deeply in our memory banks. As a result, I can remember with greater clarity the day my younger brother Mike broke his shinbone more than how much fun we had looting the neighborhood on Halloween that year. The harder stuff is hammered into us with greater force. Go figure!
If that is the case, how can those prime, first remembered past moments be elevated to the status of being precious. Surely getting my first grade report from knob year at The Citadel wasn't really one of the more sanctified, glorious moments in my personal history. Honestly, remembering the disappointment and frustration expressed by our dad, The Chester, wasn't a Hallmark moment. He had sacrificed and paid dearly for that education. He expected more.
What makes those tough times precious and worth remembering is that they were more often than not life pivot points, that is, occasions of great learning. Being on the Commandant's Academic Deficiency list that semester re-engineered my study habits and enabled me to hold cadet rank each year, use my weekend leave privileges, and graduate in four years. We smile at them when viewed through the rear-view mirror because it was a moment of reckoning. It was painful then but is cherished now. That trip from the mailbox to the house was the longest mile in 1968. Today it is a precious memory.
Harriet and i are remembering our son Brian this week. The week of his murder, July 18, 2011, have stamped precise, capitalized bullet points in our memory, every minute and hour. With little debate they are our most painful and horrific memories. Now, seven years later, they still evoke deep sorrow, grief, and loss. We know that we will never totally recover from his death.
It was, however, our most acute learning experience. In retrospect, we are discovering the precious elements of those memories---the people who embraced and loved us, the media who gave us grace and blessing, the truths about life that were revealed to us in the agonies of our grief, the reality and certainty of God's promises that carry us even today. These years later the horrors of those days have become precious memories that sustain and comfort us. As we rehearse the details of that week, with the pain and loss in the lead, there is a sweetness that engulfs us. And, what we have learned from that adversity has become a catalog of precious memories.
More than anything, God gave us promises that day that still guide us and give us eternal comfort. One is the promise of 1 Peter 5: 6, a verse that seems to overlay the minutia of those first horrible hours. Peter wrote---
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due
We know that "due time" is coming, that moment when everything about those days will be precious memories. And, we wait for it, expectantly.
Precious memories, how they linger.
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