Sometimes a bit of nostalgia is good. It can remind us of all those wonderful moments we've shared with friends, particular blessings we've been given from the Lord and push us on to continue hoping for better things. But memories can also haunt us if we allow them. It's as if they tap us on the shoulder, taunting us and saying, "Look how you were, you will be here again." Nightmares don't speak to you with words like "may" or "possible." They speak in definite terms - will, must, have to, are. That's why they are so paralyzing for so many. For all? I don't know. I suppose there are some people who have never succumbed to the fear and mastery of bad memories and nightmares, but I haven't heard.
I'm not usually a fearful person, but I can assure you there are many things in my past that I would rather not have to deal with again. Ever. But memory can be unkind when spurred on by those seeking our destruction and discouragement. And often I'm the one spurring them on to bigger reality than they deserve. How often are we all the enemies seen in the shadows?
It takes 11.5 laps to complete 1 mile at the indoor track of our community center. Since I'm no longer focused on trying to stay warm (like when I was torturing myself, uh, I mean... running outdoors), my mind begins to wander. It has become a time when I can plan dinner, sing songs in my head, contemplate those great questions of life (like how to get that half lap in since the track hangs over the gym). And prayer. I admit those prayers are usually something along the lines of: "Father, please strengthen these legs and let me just get past the older gentleman without collapsing into his arms" or "Help me to not fall over the rails into that pile of middle school boys playing basketball down there. It could hurt us all. A lot".
But I've come to realize it also gives me a greater opportunity - time to pray for those that I otherwise find myself forgetting in the busy day to day, and time to ponder what I may have been studying this week. One of my favorite books has become The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. Its pages are filled with wonderful prayers that often cut quickly to the heart, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone.
Here is one I've been thinking on quite a lot recently:
THE 'NEVERS' OF THE GOSPEL
never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth,
never rest in a system of doctrine, however scriptural,
that does not bring or further salvation,
or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts,
or hel me to live soberly, righteously, godly;
never rely on my own convictions and resolutions,
but be strong in thee and in they might;
never cease to find thy grace sufficient
in all my duties, trials, and conflicts;
never forget to repair to thee
in all my spiritual distresses and outward troubles,
in all the dissatisfactions experienced in creature comforts;
never fail to retreat to him who is full of grace and truth,
the friend that loveth at all tiems,
who is touched with feelings of my infirmities,
and can do exceeding abundantly for me;
never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions,
but acknowledge thee in all my ways;
never limit my devotions to particular seasons
but be in they fear all the day long;
never be godly only on the sabbath or in thy house,
but on every day abroad and at home;
never make piety a dress but a habit,
not only a habit but a nature,
not only a nature but a life.
Do good to me by all thy dispensations,
by all means of grace,
by worship, prayers, praises,
And at last let me enter that world where is no temple,
but only they glory and the Lamb's.
I never thought I'd run for anything except food, or the bathroom, or my life. I never thought I'd start a blog. I never want to revisit painful memories. But in light of the prayer, are there not better Nevers that should replace the others? So let me run, and blog about it, and every so often revisit those memories if only to return to the Lord's grace.