Isn’t it strange? I can remember someone’s name from elementary school and for the life of me can’t seem to remember the name of a certain person at church. I really don’t know why I seem to remember some of the things I do. For instance:
I remember Prentice Meador calling me one time and talking with me about a possible ministry situation. Near the end of the telephone call, he suggested that we pray. That was the first time anyone had ever prayed for me over the telephone.
I remember a significant conversation with Mary Cordell, a member of our church in Pulaski, Tennessee, many years ago, who spoke of her prayer life in such a real and vivid way that I realized something was missing from my own relationship with God.
I remember conversations with Dan Anders, former minister of the University Church of Christ on the campus of Pepperdine University. He was wrestling with cancer. Some of those conversations were very difficult though very meaningful. Most of all, I remember his authenticity.
I remember sitting in Tippin’s Restaurant with Dr. Bill Stancil, a former theology professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. I remember his patience as I asked him question after question. I learned much from him. He became a very good friend during the years we lived there.
I remember sitting in the old house that served as an office and teaching center for Dr. Edwin Friedman. I can vividly recall sitting in a seminar group of about fifteen people and experiencing the exchanges that occurred between Friedman and the group. It was in these exchanges that I realized that I was not trapped into a certain way of functioning in a church.
I remember conversations with James Long many years ago. I was a college student. He was a Christian businessman and teacher of our Sunday morning class. I admired him. He had an obvious love for the Lord and was so alive and vibrant. Probably just as important, he showed an interest in me.
I remember watching Eloise Homesley who taught the junior high class at this same church. She was in her forties. For the most part, her class consisted of African-American girls from the neighborhood. I watched her pour out her life for these children. I recall seeing the hugs and hearing the encouraging words she gave these children. I have a memory of seeing her in our church on a Sunday morning assembly with these girls sitting with her.
So what is the point? These memories are a part of what has shaped me. Scripture has shaped me. Hymns have shaped me. Experiences of praising God with other believers have shaped me. The encouraging words of others have shaped me. These memories are a part of what forms my identity. (Yes, my identity is in Christ, but these experiences had a way of deepening my understanding and appreciation for who I am.)
I like these words from Carl Holladay who speaks of the importance of memory for the early Christians as well as for the church today:
Identity can also be understood as a function of memory. When we lose our memory, we lose our sense of identity. Luke enriches the church’s sense of identity by carefully constructing a narrative that remembers its past: its origins, genealogy, inaugural, and the labels of self-description that emerged in its earliest decades. With a firmly established identity, the church is able to distinguish itself from other religious groups in the Mediterranean world. It is also able to present itself to outsiders with a clear profile of its identity. Having a well-defined identity thus enables the church to operate with a clear sense of mission. (Carl Holladay in Good Shepherds, p. 16, edited by David Fleer and Charles Siburt)
What about you? Are there mental snapshots that you have of people who in some way have contributed to the person you are today?