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Getting back to playing that tape

Late last night, after a day of sorting through papers and drawers in prep for our move North, I channel flipped into 50 First Dates (a serious contender for my favorite film ever). This romantic comedy-drama is guaranteed to lift my spirits every time, but this time it reminded me of something important: remembering who I am.

In the film, womanizer Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) meets Lucy (Drew Barrymore) and can’t get her out of his head. Trouble is, she has no problem getting him out of hers. Lucy was in a car accident a year before and suffers short-term memory loss. She can remember everything up until the day of the accident, but every night as she sleeps she forgets the previous day. Each day, her father (a widower), her brother (played by the hilarious Sean Austin) and a couple of family friends who own a rural cafĂ© go through elaborate but well-oiled motions in order pretend it is the same day in order to shield Lucy from the truth. “Bad days” are when she figures out something’s amiss and learns the truth, which leaves her frightened, anguished and emotionally exhausted.

Eventually, Henry puts together a video tape which summarizes the time since her accident and plays it for her one morning. While still very painful, the truth up front gives her (and her family and friends) a chance to start living real life again.

I love this part of the film because it reminds of a practical spiritual discipline that really helps me in trusting God. A few years ago, I started a kind of seasonal routine, where I repeat a series of linked biblical truths or Scripture that remind of who God is and who I am. A few years ago, during a particularly dark time, this was a longer litany designed to walk me through what I knew to be true and leave me at a place of trusting God. Since then, it’s taken various forms with emphasis on different truths that bring me to a place of trust (and thus, peace).

Recently, my “litany” has become rather short—perhaps because of the nature of my life right now, heh. We’re getting down to the wire on moving to Virginia, which can be stressful business, even when you’re looking forward to it. There’s packing the boxes or sorting through all the stuff (and, boy, do I have too much stuff), which can be rather taxing. And of course, there’s the heart-aching part of leaving behind people I’ve really grown to love. Then there’s the mental stress that comes from not having a home. With every drawer I go through or stack of papers I sort, I’m reminded that this one is about to be crammed into boxes, all traces of who lived here packed, painted, scrubbed and swept away. The next one is also a shell, empty and yet to be had. All this can be a jarring reminder of who I am: a pilgrim. And that can be rather unsettling and leaves me feeling a bit anxious. Okay, more than a bit anxious.

So, last night I crafted my latest litany, a very short one. It’s made up of two verses which recall some truths I’ve learned over the last year or so that remind me in whose arms I rest:

“But while he was still a long ways off, his father saw him and . . . ran to his son. . .” (Message Luke 15:20). . .

This scene from the middle of the Prodigal Son parable captures the image of a father so filled with joy and love that he breathlessly runs down a long road to meet his longed-for boy the moment he recognizes the young man’s gait. An unbridled child running to a love-brimmed father. A swirl of strong arms enveloping abandoned joy. Love. Acceptance. Right-ness. Oh-so-indescribible and abounding grace. It reminds me that when God walks into the room I don’t fall to my knees in unworthiness but run to him like a joyful child to her smiling father. It reminds me that all’s right, forgiven, bold and beautiful, right and pure, perfect and righteous. It reminds me that I can call him Abba, that I live and belong in wide open spaces of his grace and glory, that I am new and free and loved beyond measure.

And “. . . your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (NIV Colossians 3:3).

This verse is in the context of talking about how we have a new life in God that comes with and in Jesus. Christ is our life, so we are freed from our old one—one in which anxiety is at home (1-4). Instead, this new life is filled with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (12). And above all it is dripping in love (14).

I am particularly drawn to the terminology of being hidden because it gives me an image of standing with Jesus in the immeasurable depths and breadths of God. It reminds me that I am safe, that I covered and surrounded and hidden in the eternal depths of a God that loves me like the father in the parable.

When I remember that, not only do I feed peace and joy, but that peace and joy and love spill over to those around me—like my family and friends and those I encounter as I go through my day. Remembering who and where I am takes my focus off me, my fears and anxieties and puts it back on the reality of a loving and trustworthy God—and that frees me to love others.

So, that’s the tape I’m playing these days. What’s your’s?

(For this blog's take on 50 First Dates, go here. The film is rated PG-13 for language, crude humor and sexual situations.)

(Images: copyrighted by Columbia Pictures)