I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook’s throwback feature. I open my Facebook feed in the morning and get a reminder of what happened "on this day" two years ago…"on this day" 4 years ago…"on this day" 12 years ago…
Sometimes the memory is innocuous. Oh wow, I ate an apple with the sticker attached and felt the need to share that information with the world.
Other memories are painfully sweet, like a throwback pic to our pre-kid life, running around in Italy or GOING TO THE MOVIES. (That happened once in our life! Movies! Imagine it!) Or, my personal fave, retro #jojoquotes from my precocious daughter. (Today’s vintage 3-year-old quote: “Mom this medicine does NOT taste like berries.” True words kid.)
Still other memories are sharp, piercing, sometimes even embarrassing and, in my opinion, would be better off left to rot in the deep recesses of the internet, like that ill-advised political post I made that alienated people I loved and resulted in approximately ZERO productive dialogue.
But memories can serve a larger purpose than giving us a quick dip in the pool of nostalgia. Memories, when encountered through the lens of God’s restorative purposes, can become a means of grace, reminding us of God’s saving action in our lives in the past, and calling us to trust that God’s saving action will continue in the days to come.
But God had already been on the move, already making a way, already orchestrating a new plan, both for our former church and the church that would be come our new, beloved parish.
And God also had someone else in mind as well, our two-year old, Josephine.
A few days after our arrival in Idaho, the secretary called us to let us know that someone had left a gift for our daughter. No name on the package, but inside was this sweet brown baby.
It had always been our hope to raise our kids with a wide view of the world, with the opportunity for meaningful relationships with people who didn’t look like them. The opportunity for that was very limited in rural Missouri. And you would think in rural Idaho too. But, we had accepted the call to a military town, not with radical racial diversity, don’t get me wrong, but with a mix of people from across the country and a few from around the world, creating a unique culture of openness to others.
In a culture like this, it made perfect sense to gift the new pastors’ daughter with a baby of a different ethnicity than her own.
In that little brown baby doll, I experienced God’s radical, breathtaking generosity, I bore witness to His responsive knowledge of the deep desires of my heart, to His care over my little one through a major life change, to His provision for our family, not only in the big dramatic details (like a house or a job), but in the smallest tidbits, the prayers of my heart so small, I didn’t even whisper them aloud. The secretary no doubt found it strange that the gift of a baby doll would illicit tears from one of the new preachers, but hey, when God surprises you with indescribably sweet gifts, the tears are inevitably going to flow. #sorrynotsorry.
So, Facebook flashbacks, unbeknownst to you, you have become a means of God’s grace to me. You have given me the gift of memory, reminding me of God’s radical, generous provision for my family. I receive that grace today, and hold tightly to the promise tucked inside, that God’s grace is always at work, making a way when the future seems murky, grace that comes even in the form a little brown baby doll.