Have I ever told you guys that I scrapbook? If someone asked me what my “hobby” or “pastime” was, I guess that would be it. Early on I had boxes of different kinds of paper, stickers and about a million pairs of scissors with different edges. Every photo would have a caption, every page a theme. Through the years my scrapbooking taste has changed. Now I’m more in a season of “simply try and remember to take photos,” much less order them to print and place them a book. Still, I really actually enjoy scrapbooking.
A spiritual advisor in my life asked me this question:
“Out of the overarching call on your life, your primary strengths and the dreams of your heart, what would you see as the perfect position for you in the season ahead?”
I have a love/hate with these types of questions. (Not hate hate, but more struggle. Whenever I hear or read the word “hate,” I heard my dad’s voice, “Hate is a strong word Jennifer.”) I struggle because it seems like such a huge and ethereal question. Like looking into space and theorizing what is “out there.” Yes, there are somethings we can see, a few things we can even touch, but for the most part, we are just guessing. I also think I’m jaded by years of hearing how the church has communicated purpose and God’s plan. I think we are taught there is some trick, secret, or mystery to be solved when it comes to the whole “what am I supposed to do with my life?” thing, when I honestly think it’s more about seasons, personalities, and staying connected to the guiding source.
But I also love these kinds of questions because when I let them, it requires that I stop, pause and reflect.
I’ve shared before how often God prompts Israel to remember, how so much of Jesus’ ministry is more of a calling back/remembering toward God’s heart, how God does this cool thing of calling us forward, using our past and nudging our present. We have a tendency to want to divide these portions of our story, and at times I think that can be helpful, but at times reflecting on your past has it’s place.
I’m not sure how theologically sound sentiments like “Don’t look back – you’re not going that way.” (Engelbreit/Thoreau) actually are. Countless times God commands Israel to remember, to recall, and on the flip side Lot’s wife looked back and poof, tumbling salt pillar (Genesis 19). We can find psalms and proverbs that say “remember what the Lord has done” and also “fix your eyes straight ahead.” For me, the key is the focus. If I’m looking back, ahead, or right in front of me, in the present – what are my eyes fixated on, what is getting my attention, God’s movement, or my mistakes, what God has done, or all the things that were all me?
As I responded to the question, because this person has not known me that long, I shared some moments from my past. I ended up having such a sweet time with God. (when I use the word “sweet” I more mean precious or tender, but I also can’t help but hear a Wayne’s World/Bill and Ted sound with that word when used to describe a moment.)
It was like flipping through a scrapbook of how God has raised me. I had a chance to recall how He has moved, be reminded of His pattern in my life, and reassured there is purpose through seasons. The irony is, the question was posed in order to gain clarity and guidance for the future, but the moment it provided more calmed me for the present.
I still wonder “what I should be when I grow up.” I am probably always going to frustratingly ache for “what’s next.” I think I’m just made that way. But reminders ground me. Looking back at what God has done calms me, softens me. When I flip through a scrapbook (and I have like 12 of them, not joking) it’s a weird mix of gratitude and grief for moments passed, but passed and lost are very different things. Taking the time to remember God’s presence in all the ups and downs of our journey, recalling how He has been there, reminds us we are not as lost as we feel. Considering what has passed can provide balm for the present.