“Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” -Luke 17:33
In how many ways do we try to preserve our lives?
- Strict Routines
- Safe Choices (no risks)
- Shrines to the Past
- Refusals to Let Go or to Try Something New
- On-line Friendships (the comforting illusion of never saying good-bye)
I think I must confess I tend to be a life preserver. A memory keeper. A chronicler. I love taking pictures and journaling memories. I love keeping in touch with friends far away, hearing what’s new in their lives. I’m also a big fan of predictable routines.
Is that always bad? I don’t think so. Some things are worth preserving in some form when we can. In several places in the Bible, God told His people to practice rituals or build monuments that would help them remember. He knew and still knows that memories of what He has done for His people build trust and identity. They also give God’s people the opportunity to pass the story on to the next generation so they can enjoy knowing and trusting God, too. There is a time and a purpose to save: when it reminds us of what God has done, when it reminds us of who we are, when it reminds us from where we came, when it helps us to love or to teach. Without memories, there is no identity, no attachment, no meaning.
Just before Christmas last year, I found some old e-mails I’d printed out and kept many years ago. My grandmother had told me to write down cute things the boys did and said while they were little because otherwise I’d forget. Instead I kept copies of the daily e-mail messages I was sending to my mom. (This was before Facebook, text messaging, digital photography, or camera phones; e-mail was the new, great thing, and I was so thankful for it.) I was writing the messages because we were separated by a full continent, and I wanted my parents to know their grandkids. I kept copies as a simple way of following Grandma’s advice, but I never reread them until the end of last year.
And then I laughed myself silly, wondering as I did how I survived raising kids. Mothers of littles, you are heroes! As I consider each of my grown sons, I can testify, just in case you’re tempted to doubt, it’s worth every melted M & M staining the carpet, near death of a small rodent rescued just in time from testing a homemade parachute, and Brer Rabbit superglue incident broadcast by speaker phone to a room full of strangers.
If you don’t believe I mean this, let me remind you that my husband and I are preparing to adopt a sibling group and go through it all over again (hopefully minus the stains, rodents, and superglue—I’m trusting our new additions will come up with something surprising and new just as each of our boys did in turn). Raising kids, helping them reach their potential, watching them grow and mature—always worthwhile, no matter what. I’d be willing to raise mine again, but they’re doing just fine where they are . . . and so, as God is leading, my husband and I will raise some more. (I thank you for your prayers.)
I think that’s the key here. Preserving what was and what is as it is takes energy. Jesus wants us to use that energy to follow Him instead. He doesn’t want us to preserve what we’re going to lose anyway. He wants us to live! Just as I’ve raised my kids and they are living their own lives, I must continue to live mine. Do I enjoy the occasional visit with stories and pictures and memories? Yes. But my home is not a shrine to what was. It is a place where people live, now, doing whatever their hands find to do in Jesus’ name. We need to view our churches and work within our communities in the same way.
We can’t go back into the past. We can’t take the past into the future. We have to let go. And when we do, we get to enjoy all the new adventures Jesus is leading us into—ultimately, in Heaven with Him.
In any moment, all we try to preserve may be gone forever. If that is all we have, then we’ll be left with nothing when that moment comes. But moments devoted to Jesus are preserved—by Him—for all eternity. We can trust Him to save what matters as we live every moment for Him.
Jesus, thank You for this warning. Help us to live for You now, faithfully following wherever you lead. We’re entrusting our past, present, and future to You. You are absolutely worthy. Amen.