Aaron loves looking at a particular picture of me and Gary, taken back in the day. WAYYYY back in the day, to be clear. This picture was taken at Gary’s Army Flight School Banquet upon his graduation.
Aaron has always said that he thought this photo was of our wedding, so I am often correcting him about that as I repeat over and over that this was taken four years after we were married. Aaron doesn’t sweat the details, though, and he continues to tell us…and others…that here are Mom and Dad at their wedding.
But there is another detail that Aaron loves to share the MOST as he either talks about this picture or gets to show it to people who come to see us in our home.
“In her wedding picture,” Aaron begins (and I know exactly what is coming!), “Mom used to be skinny!!”
Emphasis on “USED to be skinny.”
As in I was…in the past…not the present…in the FAR distant past…skinny.
Aaron will randomly tell this bit of news to anyone who has ears, including people who barely know me. He will share it within the context of any conversation, out of the blue, ignoring people’s curious looks and my rolling eyes in my red face.
Yes, Aaron, I USED to be skinny. Those WERE the good old days.
I’m able to laugh as I tell this story, even as I constantly try to keep Aaron FROM telling it in order to hopefully teach him some manners or some tact. Yet Aaron’s focus on the past…on MY past…has also taught me an important truth.
The prophet, Haggai, helped with this as well. I’ll explain.
Haggai was the first prophet that was heard in Israel after the Babylonian exile. The Israelites had returned to Jerusalem and Haggai encouraged them to finish building the temple. Fifteen years had passed since any work had been done on the temple. God promised to be with them as the people agreed to once again build God’s house.
Yet later, as they stood at the site of the temple, God knew that the people were very discouraged. He also knew why they were so down in their spirits. So, God spoke to the leaders and to the people through Haggai.
Haggai 2:3 – “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”
God, through His prophet, just cut to the chase. He hit the nail on the head as He revealed openly what He knew they were thinking. And what they were thinking was that compared to years ago, this beginning of a new temple looked dismal and ugly. In fact, the Israelites…especially the older ones who remembered the former glory of the old temple…knew that the new temple they would build would in no way compare to the beauty of the past temple.
Who could help but be discouraged as they stood there remembering the glory that used to be, but would not fully be again?
But God didn’t just leave it there. He continued to speak, telling the leaders to be strong, and ended by saying:
Haggai 2:4-5 – “Be strong, all you people of the land – declares the Lord – and work, for I am with you, declares the Lord almighty. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, and my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear!”
I’ll tell you that there are times and there are ways in which I am much like these Israelite Jews as they looked at their current circumstances and compared them to what used to be. And for me it goes WAY beyond remembering my skinny days!
Ten years ago, God set Gary and I on a path of great hurt and loss. The details are not what matter. What matters is that God was surely with us each step of the way. He did indeed tell us to keep working for Him in very difficult circumstances, just as He did to Israel. He told us to be strong even when we were tired on every level.
What kept us going? The two promises that God gave to Israel were ours as well. God said, “I am with you…and my Spirit remains among you.” I can promise you that God kept His promises to us. His strength, His peace, His Spirit, was always present and enabling in our lives. His Word was powerful!
I love what John Mackay says about God being with us: “This is what distinguishes the advice of the world, ‘Be strong. I know you’ve got it in you,’ from the counsel of Scripture which recognizes that we have NOT got it in us, but that God’s presence with us will make all the difference.”
Circumstances can get very ugly sometimes, but I am not to focus on what’s around me. I am to focus on God and on the fact that He is with me. He will not fail me. He will not desert me to my enemies or to my runaway thoughts.
God also gave Israel a simple three-word command.
“Do not fear,” God said.
Again, John Mackay: “The Lord’s faithfulness in the past and the present is the basis for future encouragement. It is not the appearance of the building, but the presence of his enabling Spirit that will make the crucial difference.”
Not the appearance of the building. Not my surroundings, but rather the God Who surrounds me with His protection in every way I need.
So, what’s your “Remember When?”
Remember when: You were loved. You weren’t alone. You were important to that group. You were included.
Remember when: You had a job you loved. You had the money you needed. You made a difference.
Remember when: You had your health. You had your spouse. You had your children close.
Remember when: You sang. You taught. You were a part. You mattered.
Remember when: You had your parents. You had a family. You laughed. You talked.
The list is endless, isn’t it? Life changes. Sometimes suddenly…other times, slowly. But change is inevitable for all of us.
What doesn’t ever change is God. His presence is with His children, steady and stable, always constant. He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.
When the past tries to capture my attention, I know I must look to today…to what God has for me today…to Who He is today…and to His promises that are true…TODAY!
And I can declare from experience that out of our deepest pain of yesterday will come our most beautiful usefulness TODAY!