Moving On: Are Memories Treasures or Anchors?

Erik Cooper —  March 1, 2012 — 13 Comments

I’m a sap. It’s true. I feel things deeply and then painstakingly over-analyze why. (You might be a blogger if you have the supernatural ability to transform seemingly pointless minutia into 350 words).

In the weeks leading up to the close of our “no-longer-ours” house, I overindulged in sentimentality. Standing in the doorways of each room, conjuring up memories from the newly emptied space, choking back tears like Brett Favre at one of his 8 retirement press conferences.

A red leather recliner used to offset the fireplace. I sat there cradling a newborn baby Anna the morning we brought her home from the hospital. My wife occupied that same chair when she surprised me with the news she was pregnant with our son, Austin.

A black futon once filled that yellow wall. We watched hours of September 11 news coverage from that perch while our then two year old and only daughter played innocently and at our feet, oblivious to how the world was shaking around her.

We gave our daughter her first guitar in this bedroom. The results are somewhat obvious.

I reasoned, begged, pleaded, and prayed over that furnace when it decided to go on hiatus during the 2011 ice storm. After a good beating, it eventually cooperated (home repair consistently mocks me).

Countless family dinners were served under that light fixture. Countless stories shared. Countless hearts connected. Thank God my wife’s ability to cook didn’t stay with the house. (Oh, and yes, that’s an artificial arm laying on the half wall. My father-in-law is the original bionic man).

I carried a decade’s-worth of sleeping babies, toddlers, and even a few drowsy pre-teens up this flight of stairs. A remnant of pink marker has permanently adorned a few steps (a gift from one of our Safe Families kids). Be careful, the second stair from the top has a nasty squeak. It’s impossible to sneak down to the coffee pot unheard in the darkness of the early morning.

I taught my daughter to catch a baseball in this backyard. Learned my son was a lefty, too. Wrote a few songs while mowing that grass. Pulled more than one kite, ball, and panicked 5 year old from the limbs of that tree. I think most of the dog crap has been picked up, but you might check your shoes.

These memories define so much of our lives. Our mental photo album. They’re precious. Treasures. But this whole process has me wondering…

Do they ever hold us back?

Mark Batterson cautions that the older we get, the easier it is to live out of memory than imagination (science has proven it). We start making decisions based on preservation rather than innovation. To hold onto the past instead of dreaming for the future.

I’d love to hear your thoughts:

Does sentimentality have any place in God’s Kingdom?

How do we honor, embrace, and reflect in moments like these without allowing the emotion to keep us from boldly living into the future?

Has nostalgia ever held you back?

How do we honestly acknowledge our feelings without letting them stall or re-route our journey?

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13 responses to Moving On: Are Memories Treasures or Anchors?

  1. Both. Memories are treasures as long as they don’t hold us back. In our “new” house my major storage area is no longer mine for collecting junk. Much of what is there is more because of the memories than because I use it. My husband has offered alternative storage, so I can keep my junk. However, I’m not sure that I should really hang onto the stuff since I can still have the memories, and I’m not sure I’ll be likely to retrieve the useful stuff from the proposed storage area once the change is made. Even the useful stuff may just sit. HMMMMM.

  2. Eddie Prather March 1, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    Eric, I can’t speak to weather it is right or wrong; I can only say that it is true.
    Yep, the older we get the more there is to reflect on and as we see our kids growing up, we want to try and hold back the hands of time.
    I have tried… it doesn’t work.
    What has happened instead is I have been granted a grace for attempting to live in the moment [at least that is what I try].
    I still spend more time in the past than I should but it makes the music from then take on more meaning.

  3. My perspective – as I age, I find that memories ‘paint’ a landscape of my life’s story. I savor God’s provision and plan in many memories and value lessons I’ve learned from difficulties/trials, etc. For me, it’s the story of my journey; I can’t consider the memories an anchor because I’m not bound to them; I consider them a treasure because I see a heavenly Father’s hand in the whole thing!

  4. I wish I had something deep to add but all I have is that pic of your daughter with her new guitar is one of my favs. If that isn’t a picture of joy I don’t know what is. Congrats on the new house.

  5. Sentimental (adjective)
    1. Affectedly or extravagantly emotional
    2. Resulting from or colored by emotion rather than reason or realism
    3. Expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia

    Nostalgia (noun)
    1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
    2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness

    Does sentimentality have any place in God’s Kingdom?
    –Given the definitions above, I’d have to say no. I don’t think it’s healthy to solely live off of emotion, allowing it to cloud reason and reality. I also know it’s not healthy to live in grief, longing for the past. But having said that, I think there are normal and natural emotions to be felt and processed. There are memories to savor and visit and when we first leave those places associated with wonderful memories of a life well lived, there’s more grief than joy. For a bit, our hearts feel like we’re abandoning ‘home’ or being abandoned, maybe. I don’t think it’s wrong to feel these things and I don’t know that I’d call that sentimentality. I think I’d call it being human. Choosing to live in the grief, hanging on to the memories instead of creating new ones would be sentimentality and an unhealthy way to live. I don’t think rushing through this process, however, is good. Feelings need to run their course. We just need to make sure we keep running the course of life and not park for too long.

    How do we honor, embrace, and reflect in moments like these without allowing the emotion to keep us from boldly living in the future?
    –Being married to heartless helps with that. 😉 I’ve had to learn how to be patient with myself and give myself permission to ‘feel’ what I feel. For me, new projects and new experiences help me move on and sometimes I have to be intentional with that. It’s sucks at first.

    Has nostalgia ever held you back?
    –I don’t have much to be nostalgic about, except the house you just sold. Thanks. You ruined my week. 😉

    How do we honestly acknowledge our feelings without letting them stall or re-route our journey?
    –Practice. Writing. Talking. Blogging. Allowing myself to cry.

    Glad you wrote about this…

  6. My wife and I were told this once by our friend Craig…

    “Chris you have the ability to make memories and savor them. Kristen, you make those memories manageable.” We always laugh about that.
    I think there’s room in the Kingdom for memories, but only to press us forward to the future of what could be. I often have to remind myself, especially when daydreaming about the past, that there are memories waiting to be made. We often think about this when it comes to raising our son.
    I was once challenged by something that Donald Miller said about “the good ole days” and then reminded that we are writing “the good ole days” for our son today. Someday he’ll look back fondly on these days and long for them. Our hope is though, that we can establish more of a longing for the emotion and feeling rather than the memory itself.
    I think when we look back on those things that brought us joy, for one reason or another, we can smile and say thanks. Then ask God to help us have that same feeling as we make new memories. I don’t know if that makes sense. Thanks Erik for helping me remember to take time to remember.

    • Great thoughts Chris. I love the part about remembering to say “thanks.” Sometimes we mourn the loss and forget to celebrate that there’s actually something worth mourning.

  7. Kenny Constable April 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    When I think of memories I look first for the lessons learned. I believe this is their main purpose in our lives. For this reason I feel they are a valuable tool in keeping us from making the same mistakes and appreciating what we have or have accomplished (God has accomplished in us). An example in my own life is: One of my earliest memories of childhood at the age before going to school, between 4 and 6, as most children, have to be under Mommy’s feet. I would often hear my mother singing the old hymns like the old rugged cross and I come to the garden to pray (her favorite). And later in my rebellious teen age years when I would come in after being out “partying” and out of control (my Dad worked nights at the time), she would go in her bedroom close the door and I could hear her praying for me.Those memories haunted me until the day I accepted Christ, and now I see them as blessings. Memories, like traditions, are only anchors when we let them limit and control us. Then if we live in memories we will not have time to make more memories.

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