As my hands rhythmically pulled the fiberglass oar in and out of the water, an all-too-familiar sting surfaced on my palm. I looked down and saw the soft tender skin blistering underneath unfamiliar rubbing, and I remembered.
It was our alumni weekend for Gonzaga University rowing – and this year, I found myself surprised that I was one of the oldest alums. It seemed like just yesterday that I was spending sleepless nights glued to my notes studying before midterms, only to plop myself into a boat a few hours later, with only the moonlight to shine upon our eight breaths cascading together in motion.
As I prepared to spend the week out here, I thought most of my time would be spent re-connecting with friends and fundraising. While these things did happen, it was to a much lesser extent than I was expecting. Planes were delayed, work schedules conflicted, and people out of town. I came to the conclusion that it was altogether terrible timing. So why was I here?
Over the course of my stay, I began to see that the reason why I was in Washington this week was to remember.
I’m one of those people that is always thinking about the “next.” To my fault, my default is to plow ahead, even if I need only take a few steps backward to re-orient myself. I saw this the other day when I was biking to a friend’s house and I missed her turn. I knew that I missed the road, but I kept going for about a mile, believing that I would be able to take the next road to cut over to her house. The turn never came.
Sometimes we refuse to turn around. But I’m learning that we must. That’s because we cannot move forward effectively in the plans the Lord has, unless we first take time to look back.
This weekend, I had the chance to go to my favorite spot on campus – a neat little boulder situated nicely on the bank of the Spokane River. The best part about the rock is that it has a nice backrest for sitting. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s a knack for finding good sitting rocks.
It was on that rock that tears had run down my face as I found out I would no longer be receiving my volleyball scholarship – but little did I know that God would open the doors for rowing and I would find my niche in a capacity unparalleled to my volleyball career.
On that rock, I had spent countless afternoons pouring over books and notes, studying as the playful breeze swept over the trees and the geese honks cheered me on.
On that rock, I remembered how my friend Lynette and I had spent evenings huddled together chatting, as she mentored me through how to live out my newfound faith in Jesus Christ.
I realized that everything that happened here had rebounding effects on the person I am and am becoming. Little did I know that the Lord would use my time rowing to instill in me an incredible amount of discipline, structure, and perseverance. I never would have known that 3 ½ years after I received an endorsement in teaching English as a Second Language I would be teaching English in nations all over the world. Little did I know that God would use my teaching degree not to teach elementary school children, but to inspire congregations in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
I am like the maple tree, leaves blooming and falling as seasons come and go, but my sturdy frame remains, continuing to grow taller and taller as more of me – more of who God has made me to be – comes out.
It’s when we remember that we gain a bigger perspective – in who we are, in where we’ve been. Understanding this is fundamental in helping us to discern where we are going.
Even Jesus himself looked back. In John 13, Jesus shows “the full extent of His love” by washing His disciples’ feet. But before he did this, it says that he remembered of the authority given to him in his relationship with the Father – that he had come from God and was returning to God.
Michel Quoist said that “To recollect yourself is to recover all your scattered energies – those of the mind, the heart and the body. It is to reassemble all the pieces of yourself flung on the four corners of your past or the mists of your future, pieces clinging to the fringes of our desires.”
Remembering isn’t just about the moment. It’s re-membering. Tying together the members, the pieces. In the same way, recollecting is re-collecting what has happened to you and seeing the thread of God’s mighty story weaving through it all.
Who are you becoming? What has happened in your life to shape the person you are today?