The youth group I serve wit has recently started this project to help students look back on their lives and remember what God has done for them and things that have changed for them since knowing Jesus. I think it’s a good thing to do, I once listened to a sermon on the “Art of Remembering” by Matt Chandler and found it really helpful to consider why we recall the past. It’s important for us to keep in mind what God has done in order for us to be thankful, humble and encouraged. The past often provides incredible hope for the future: Mary, the mother of Jesus, had great hope for the future based on the promises that God had kept to her people throughout history. As Christians, we are people of hope and that hope is based on historical acts of God.
But in a culture that focuses on the future and lives in the days of tomorrow, it can be hard for Americans to remember all that has come before. In Latin America, much of life was in the past: people give directions filtered by the way cities used to look–you turn left where the old court building used to be. We remembered battles when the French were forced out–days as important as independence. There were holidays to celebrate the dead and their lives, days to sit at their graves and reminisce about lives well lived and the hope of meeting them again in the future.
The Jews had festivals that reminded them of their past: the Passover, Sukkot, Purim and others. These were days to mark and celebrate how God rescued them, provided food in the desert, freed them and promised a hope for the future of them and their children. There are rituals that go with these festivals, traditions of food and songs, candles to be lit and roles to be played among the participants. The world was built around remembering what God had done, recalling his acts of great love and grace–and then walking forward in hope based on the past.
That’s what we are trying to do for the kids in our youthgroup and the means we’ve ocme up with is to create a scrapbook for each student. If you know anything about me, you’ll know I haven’t patience or time for scrapbooking. I like things in black and white, clean and uncluttered. I don’t do glitter, raised letters or flowered paper. I’d rather weave together a story in words and sing it to you while E plays the banjo and you’re eating my latest rendition of applie pie or cranberry cheesecake. I don’t do crafty. I bake, I write, I sing and I teach. So I have struggled to relate with the scrapbooking, though I understand (and appreciate) the idea of having something tangible for our students to remember the work of God. It’s our attempt to fill a gap in our culture and remind our students that God has done great things for them and so we can trust Him.
It’s an important task, helping them create, remember and look forward while grounded in God’s historic faithfulness. I told one of my girls that it’s important to remember the story of God’s work in our lives. I know that I myself often forget what He’s done and it’s good to be reminded… But a scrapbook? A few of the girls in my youth group don’t like the activity–I can only imagine how the boys feel about something so stereotypically girly. While I applaud the attempt of remembering…I can’t help but think, there’s got to be a better way of doing this….