“Hey, look at this one,” my brother, John, said while passing to me an 8 x 10 of a large family reunion picnic, 1955. He was just a toddler that year, sitting on the lap of our older cousin, Janet. I sat on the opposite end of the children’s row; Mom was next to Aunt Betty in back.
Poor Cousin Greg was hardly visible at all, except for his quintessential cap. Next to him stood Uncle Ralph, pointing at something in the sky and blocking Greg’s face.
“I’ll bet Uncle Ralph did that on purpose.” I commented. “He always was the practical joker.”
John agreed, adding, “Dad counted down to three, and Uncle Ralph probably took it as his cue to act up.” (Dad isn’t in the picture, leading us to believe he was probably the photographer—the one with the expertise and equipment.)
Back and forth John and I passed photos, documents, and memorabilia our mother had saved – two big boxes worth. And while sorting, labeling and organizing, we enjoyed memory after memory.
No doubt you’ve experienced the same:
Remembering the past brings blessing (Proverbs 10:7a).
It was fun to recall with John more than a few of the good old days. In our hands we held again bits of personal history, revisited in our minds the people and places of our youth, and delighted in the happy times of long ago with family and friends, many of whom left positive examples for us to follow.
“The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing” (Proverbs 10:7a, HCSB, emphasis added).
Remembering the past allows us to learn from the experience of others (Deuteronomy 32:7).
Talk to an elderly person about his youth, and you may think he had it a bit rough: one bathroom in the house, one phone, one car, no TV, no computer. Siblings shared bedrooms, hand-me-down clothes, and toys. Everyone had chores to do and Mom and Dad made sure they did them.
Then he’s likely to add: “But it was good for us to have responsibilities at an early age. And even though our family was a bit poor, all of us kids had a great time inventing our own fun. We laughed a lot, too.”
And while listening to such recollections, we realize: three traits of utmost importance a couple of generations ago—responsibility, respect, and resourcefulness—no longer receive as much emphasis. We’d do well to bring them back.
Remembering the past fosters praise and hope today (Isaiah 46:9).
Eugene Peterson wisely wrote: “The before is the root system of the visible now” (Running with the Horses, p. 37).
My brother, John, and I have been blessed by the root system of our family tree that includes: perseverance and patience, humor and humility, wisdom and warm-heartedness.
Even more valuable, though, is all that God has done in the past, providing solid ground for praise in the present and hope for the future, as we:
- Remember the wonderful works that he has done, his miracles (Psalm 105:5a).
- Recall how the Lord has led decade after decade (Deuteronomy 8:2).
- Rejoice in all the good God has bestowed upon our family (Deuteronomy 26:11).
- Sing for joy at the works of his hands (Psalm 92:4).
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Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the blessing of a family tree with sturdy roots. Thank you, too, for the precious memories of your glorious deeds in my life—wonders you performed that I saw with my own eyes. Now may I be faithful to provide a strong, godly root system for those around me, that they may stand stronger yet.
(Frequently over the four years of posting on this blog, I’ve included stories of God’s wonderful works in our family—remembrances that foster praise and hope. Several examples include: The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, Part 1; The God of Rachel, Henry, and Clara, Part 2; Christmas Afterglow; Signs and Wonders. I invite you to skim through!)
How have the roots of your family tree impacted your growth? Please share in the comment section below!