Memories & Meaning

I recently sent this soliloquy to my nephew Riley on his birthday.  Since it includes thoughts that many of you may find interesting, I’ve posted it here as well:

 When I was a little boy, I remember walking in the lot west of our home.  It’s where the horses and Blackie the steer live now, about a 100 yards from the breakfast room window.  As I walked, I believe it was springtime, and I saw a big pot made of cast iron over a fire.  In it was the body of a dead hog– our men were scalding the hair off so they could butcher it and make the yummy bacon I was in the habit of eating at my grandmother’s breakfast table.  I don’t remember a lot else– just the fire under a big, cast iron pot.

Recently, over a half-century later, I worked with a friend of Lydia’s to dig that very same pot out from under the wall of a shed below our house.  It had been put there decades ago, probably not long after I had seen it in use, because we stopped raising hogs to butcher.  There it sat, not really rusting or suffering any damage, because one of the benefits of cast iron is that once a thin coat of rust forms on the outside, it stops.  I had to dig it out (and we will soon put it in the shop) because it is now quite valuable — but not to boil hogs.  It may have value as an antique, but my concern is metal thieves.  In other words, the Chinese want it, because it is mainly China which is pushing up the value of scrap iron & steel on the open market.

To me, the value isn’t any of those things… it is the memory.  I’ve been thinking a lot about memories recently, and trying to understand what I should do with them.  They are everywhere here; wherever I turn my head, in whatever room or outside somewhere on the farm, I have memories.  Do they have value in and of themselves?  Should I try to write them down, keep them close, even re-live them?  Or — should I simply let them go, like the maple seeds which come spinning down in early fall, to be lost in the leaves & grass, and to be reborn in years to come.  Most such seeds never sprout, and are lost, yet all must be grounded so that out of their number a few new trees will rise again.  Is that what memories are … seeds for the future?

These are questions I will struggle with as I say goodbye, perhaps this year, to one of the few things that has always been there, all of my life.  I am sad, I freely admit it, yet I remain certain that the answer isn’t in the memories themselves.  Why?  … because they cannot give me life.  To live and not die, to love & grow, to ever increase in joy and maturity, rather than sink into the dust of a life that can never return– this is what we all want.  It’s what you want, Riley, though you may not have thought of it that way.  We were created to want these things, for we were created, and we find our life in the Master of Memories.

Seek him, Riley, for you know His name.  You are still young, with a full life ahead, so your memories don’t stretch out like mine do.  Nevertheless, you have them, and perhaps some of them are painful and laced with sorrow or regret.  They are there to remind you of all the good things He has done for you, and the hard lessons you have learned.  Like seeds, as they rest in the crevices of your mind, they can grow into the fabric of life to come.  For that to happen, however, you must make the Lord their keeper and master.  Only He can bring good out of the sin & sorrow of the past; only He can redeem memories.

Long ago, the apostle John heard this:

… “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore… ”  (Revelation 1:17b-18a ESV)

Thus He is now, and ever will be, the Lord & Master of our memories.

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