Recently I made a very long journey. It was not that long in actual miles (just over 100) or in hours (2-3 each way). But it was a very long journey of the heart.
Woody and I drove down to Wheaton, Illinois, where I grew up and where both of us went to college. The reason for our trip was a sad one: a memorial service for my Aunt Ruth, my mother’s sister. But it also gave us opportunity to drive around several suburbs (Woody spent much of his early life in neighboring towns) that were the scenes of our childhood and teen-to-young-adult years.
As we drove by one place after another where I had lived (my mom was a realtor, so we lived in a number of different homes), I was swept back in time.
I could almost see the kids skating on the driveway on hot summer days at one house—and feel the sunburn I had the next day which, being a Sunday, meant I had to dress up and wear a “prickly dress.” I think it was dotted swiss material—anyone remember that?
Another home reminded me of our crazy standard poodle who actually climbed trees—at least, the tree right across the street, which had some low branches to get him started. A third house was the place we planned our wedding, and where, on the Big Day, an unplugged cord to the clock in my room almost made me late to my own wedding!
There must have been thousands of memories.
But many of them were on a deeper level. I thought constantly of my parents, both of whom now have gone on to be with the Lord. I thought of all the ups and downs that took place over the years in those homes we lived in. The good times, the hard times, the just day-to-day “normal” (whatever that is!) times which take place in all our lives.
Most of all, I thought of my parents’ faithfulness through it all: faithfulness to each other, to their children, and—above all—to God. Most of their days probably seemed pretty mundane. My dad was a hard-working college professor, interim pastor, writer, reluctant Mr. Fix-it, and even part-time farmer. (At one point, Wheaton College professors were given some land on which to plant vegetable gardens to supplement their meager salaries!) My mom was a part-time realtor who managed to “be there” for my brother and me even while juggling many roles as wife, daughter, sister, mother, and realtor.
I’m sure they had no idea how profoundly some of their “everyday” routines would impact generations to come. They had no idea that my brother and I knew that Dad was on his knees in the early-morning hours at his “prayer chair” in our little living room. Or that Mom, a bit later, read her red-lined Bible at the kitchen table. Or that the two of them knelt by their bed every night.
They surely didn’t realize, either, what an impression it made on us that Mom was always home for us after school (well, almost always—occasionally her realtor role had to take precedence, but rarely) so we could pour out all the important events of the day—or at least I could—I’m not sure my brother was quite as chatty! Or the picture my brother and I carry in our minds of Dad’s study door at the top of the stairs: it was always open. Clearly he was hoping we’d pop in and drop in one of the chairs across from his desk to share the latest in our lives.
And when they were reading us Bible stories as part of “family devotions” around the old yellow formica table in our kitchen, did it look as if we were paying any attention at all?
Lifelong imprints, these memories, that have profoundly affected not only my brother and me, but also our children—and now their children. It kind of reminds me of Psalm 78, verses 4–7, where the Psalmist instructs us to “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power and the wonders He has done . . . so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.”
I thought of this journey last week when I was singing “Jesus Loves Me” to Soren before he went to bed. I thought of the “children yet to be born” part of Psalm 78. And I thought of you.
I’ll bet most of your days seem pretty mundane. It’s mid-summer. It’s hot. It really doesn’t seem like you’re doing much at all. Certainly not accomplishing anything important.
You might be surprised. That’s why I’m writing about my journey back to my childhood. One thing I forgot to tell you: a couple of the places I lived aren’t even there any more. But the memories are. And the imprints for generations to come.
Hmm. No wonder you’re so tired at the end of a day. You’re doing a lot more than you think!