I think I was in kindergarten. It might have been preschool (both classes shared the same room, the same sandbox, same reading and napping cubbies, and the same head lice). I know I wasn’t in first grade (or Grade One for my Canadian friends). First grade, Ms. Knapper’s class, was at the opposite end of the hall and cluttered with old sets from school plays and art supplies. An old beehive hung from the ceiling. Somewhere in the chaos was a paddle for naughty kids…but I digress. Let’s just agree: I was in Kindergarten.
A man arrived with a camera around his neck and big shiny lights. As he set them up, the teacher introduced him and told us to just go about our regular kindergarten business: doing stuff with oversized pencils and crayons and keeping our fingers from our noses.
A few shutter clicks later, the man was gone and quickly forgotten. Months had passed, and news came that one of pictures the man had taken was going to be used for Christian Schools International’s (CSI) Christian Education Week. All over the country, all over the world, this picture would adorn church bulletins, Christian schools and church hallways. Wherever Christian education was happening, wherever people were giving money to CSI, so, too, would be this picture. And when I learned the picture was of me–ME!?–well, I immediately thought of investing in a new set of scented markers (specifically the brown, cinnamon ones, as they were the most delicious). I was going to be signing a lot of autographs. Who knows, I might even get to meet Punky Brewster…and we’d get married. My biggest hope, however, was that my face would be plastered around the shimmering halls of the Crystal Cathedral, that giant Fortress-of-Solitude-Church out there in TV Land. Maybe that squared-jawed, silver-haired preacher would even mention my name.
Of course, when Christian Education Week arrived and ushers doled out those glossy bulletins all across America…nothing. really. happened. There were extras smiles from the old ladies at church, a few praises from Sunday school teachers, and some extra candies from the suit pocket of an older man who looked like Abe Lincoln. And that was about it. My parents framed a copy and hung it in the upstairs hallway. I autographed one poster…but, it was my own.
Years went by and soon the image and what it stood for began to haunt me. It was a holy haunting, to be sure. Not because my talent still remained “unrecognized” or I missed my “15 minutes of fame” or I failed to court Ms. Brewster, but because of the three bold and serifed words stamped across the top:
According to CSI’s marketing campaign–this image–I was a child of God. I was literally the poster boy for all of God’s children. As a 20-something kid, when I looked at that poster, I couldn’t help but think someone, somewhere, had made a big mistake. I certainly was not a child of God. At that time, I was a floundering mess. I would look at that picture and think: what would these people say if they saw me now? Child of God? Not even close! I would look at that picture, that reminder, of who I was and see nothing but failure.
A few more years passed, I straightened out a bit (and I stress ‘a bit’). I was moving some of my old stuff from boxes to tupperware tubs, when I found the old autographed poster, again. This time, though, something was different. I started to think what if I actually am a child of God? What if I’ve been wrong? What if, for some reason, those people at CSI saw in me, then, something God knew I would struggle to see in myself? What if I chose to to trust, to believe, what some stranger with a camera captured so long ago? What if this is God’s faithful reminder? What if I really am a child of God? Not only that, what if I chose to live into that memory?
Today, this silly, self-autographed, picture hangs in my bedroom. When I forget who I am (and I forget a lot), and I’m floundering or wandering or fighting in myself or in life or whatever, I turn to this picture. It re-orients me: I am a child of God. It reminds to live into that memory, to trust that God is my loving father, that he is working in and through all things, all the time. It reminds that I am free to explore and learn, and that I will never be abandoned or alone. It reminds me to seek forgiveness and humility, to hope. Most of all, it reminds me to live out the grace that I have received.
In Episode 7: Church, “living out a memory” has a name. It’s called Anamnesis. It means “lived memory.” It happens when we bring a past experience to the present, but more than just by remembering it in our heads, it’s when we live it out. It shows up in the Bible a lot. When the Israelites celebrated Passover, that was anamnesis. When Joshua built a memorial to God after crossing the Jordan River, that was anamnesis. When Jesus instructed, “Do this in remembrance of me,” that is anamnesis, too. For us today, when we receive communion, Jesus is saying more than just, “Hey, intellectually think about and remember me breaking my body and spilling my blood for you.” He’s saying, in this physical act, bring my sacrifice to the present and even more–live out the memory of my offering in your present circumstances–be a gift for the life of the world.
We need these physical reminders along the journey. The road to glory, more times that not, is one befuddling situation after the next. We need mile-markers, signs of life, to remind us of our Hope. We need ways to recognize God’s faithfulness, his promises, in the brokenness of the here and now. It is so easy to forget. It is so easy to lose our way. As a church, we are called to remember and to live the memory of God’s promises in the world. And so now I’m curious. Do you have any reminders in your life of God’s faithfulness? A picture, a pile of rocks, a do-hickey, or a tattoo even? Do you have something that re-orients you to living out God’s promises? Share a photo or story in the comments or on our Facebook page. Live the memory. Lord knows we need ‘em.