Birthdays and anniversaries are interesting events in that they both measure time that has already happened. When I celebrated my 40th birthday, it was the end of my fortieth year of living. When I celebrated my 10th wedding anniversary, it was the completion of 10 years of marriage.
Often these celebrations are laden with remembrances of what has happened over the celebrated time period, a reflection that can have both fond and bitter memories as we experience life. For me, a recovering addict, shame has a way of trying to overtake these thoughts and drudge me back to emotions and events that buried my identity and stole my peace.
As I come up on an anniversary of significance related to my own addiction, I was reminded that the other side of remembrances is a choice for the present and ultimately the future. One cannot walk through a war memorial of any significance and not simultaneously walk, to some degree, into the horror of battle while also being impacted in decisions we make today about how we treat people and stand up for what is right.
Perhaps the greatest Biblical example of this blending of remembrances and present commitments comes in the book of Nehemiah. After having neglected the Word of God for many years, God nonetheless allows the exiles to return from Babylon to Jerusalem. The people’s first instinct is to build up what is their own, but after God’s reprimand to put Him first, the people commit to rebuild the Temple, culminating in a powerful time of worship. Ezra and Nehemiah read the Word aloud to all the assembled people, and worship ensued for the better part of the day. Hearts are broken as the Word reminded the people of where they had fallen, but also provided a chance for a new day, a new stand to be taken. Amidst their public confession, there is also a covenant made to restore relationship. The people realize that they can choose their stance before God today in spite of their past wanderings from God.
As our country celebrates its 241st birthday, we can remember both the good things that our country has accomplished as well as the many injustices we have allowed or perpetrated over time. We are a mix of successes and failures, and yet as we stand in the wake of our past, we still have the power to choose our future, how we will shape truth for the future and what we will stand up for, no matter what the cost.
As I come to my own battle, I acknowledge that the past will always knock on the door of my mind, but I have Christ in me to help choose my posture before Him. I will not allow a shame that Christ has put to death to taint the choice God has given me through the blood of His Son. I stand for God, my wife and my children. I stand for my identity in Christ, not in the ways of this world or the corresponding events that unfold. I surrender myself to the one who walked with me when few others would and trust that His strength is greater, His promise true and His future filled with a hope that does not disappoint.
- Jeff Golden