Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nostalgia and Corner Stores


Did you know that “nostalgia” used to be considered a mental disorder? In my case, that would make sense, but lately memories of my youth have been creeping in and out of my mind. I’m not sure why, but I’ve been rather nostalgic over the last couple of weeks. And this has actually made me think a lot about my relationship with God, and how good He has been to me in the 40 years that I’ve been blessed to walk this earth. It’s almost as if God has been guiding me through a museum of elaborate paintings that are windows of the past. Each painting is like a snap shot of a significant period of life that was pivotal in the development of who I am today. Let me share one of these paintings with you.

When I was growing up, my grandparents lived down the road from a little corner store named O’Bannon’s. This was back in the mid to late 70’s, so some of that old fashioned Americana still penetrated into modern society, and this was one of those rare gems. These were the days when a pocket full of change would buy cavity-inducing treasure, and you would still have a little left over. I still can still feel it. I can still see it with vivid clarity. I can still smell it.

Each summer, my brother and I would always spend a week at my grandparent’s house, and walking to O’Bannon’s was the highlight of each day. Most mornings, we darted out of the kitchen that had one of those old wooden screen doors that creaked before it slammed shut, just like on the Walton’s. We ran past Paw Paw’s upholstery shop and across the drive way covered in rock and oyster shells. I could feel the embrace of the morning sun on my back and on my bare feet as the concrete warmed up a little. Down a cracked sidewalk we would run before dodging between a couple of houses and through a few backyards. Eventually we would come to the well worn path that led to the left and the back of O’Bannon’s. Through heavy trees and bushes the path would wind until it finally ended at the cracked black asphalt parking lot. The bright summer sun would greet us again as we skipped across the cracks and potholes and eventually to the cool covered sidewalk that ran along the front of the store. To the right was an old rail covered in cracked and peeling paint that divided the walk from the parking spots. To your left were the dirty glass windows of the store, revealing cloudy glances of the treasures that lay waiting inside.

As you opened the front door a bell would ring and you were instantly met with a cold burst of air, which was very welcome on a hot and humid morning. My grandparents had no air conditioning back in those days, so this was like heaven. Our pace would slow as we enjoyed the cool air and made our way over to the candy isle. Since we usually only had a dollar or so, we immediately inspected the lowest row, which held the colorful bins of penny candy. Imagine how many pieces you could buy for a dollar? But we always made sure that we had 25 cents for a soda. I don’t know about you, but soda tasted much better, and stayed colder, back in the day when it came in tall glass bottles. But as usual, I digress. What does all of this have to do with God and theology in general?

In Ecclesiastes 12, Solomon says, “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” He goes on to emphasize the natural passing and general order of life in several verses that culminate with, “the dust will return to the earth, and the spirit will return to God who gave it. Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless.”

Meaningless, huh? Is there really no point to our wandering through this world? Is the substance of our lives simply being born into this world, living a relatively short life and then returning to the earth that we walked upon? Well, I don’t think that’s what Solomon is saying and I believe that our existence has much more significance than simply taking up space and wasting air. Rather, I think that the point is that our time on earth is short. The past, although filled with significant memories, no longer exists. The future is uncertain and that leaves us holding on to our present, which will soon pass on to the history we make of it. Those of us that have a relationship with Christ, are called to embrace the present existence that we have each second of the day. And one of the problems we all have is “nostalgia”. Come to think of it, maybe it is a mental disorder after all. I find no benefit in walking through the corridors of the past. And as God seemed to be walking me through these lost moments of life, maybe His point was “release”, rather than “embrace”. I can’t go back in time. I can’t recreate the memories of youth that I store away in the “Nostalgia” file. But there are two things that God has revealed to me as I finish this blog and stop rambling. These memories are gifts from a Holy God that have carved me into the man I am today. And although I sometimes long for the days of my youth, I must honor him now, before I get much older and say to myself with regret, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” Because it really is meaningless when compared to my eternal relationship with God.

So I guess I’ll focus my thoughts on “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which god has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

1 comment:

john said...

I really enjoied this post. Keep writing.