This past Mother’s day I took a brief sojourn to my hometown of Portland, Maine. I had not visited there in six years, which is a little less than 1/5th of my life! Since that time, I have lived in Massachusetts, Colorado and Rhode Island. I have worked in the business world, bought a house, had our first son, failed at planting a new church, and led the revitalization of an old church. Sad to admit, but in that short time I have also traveled to Italy, Poland, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, France and Jamaica. I feel like I have lived a lifetime in just 6 years!
Since a return to my old stomping grounds was long overdue, I headed 180 miles north on I-95. My first goal for this trip was to join my sister in taking my Mom out to lunch for Mother’s day. But my second goal was to reflect and reminisce in the place where I lived from grades five through twelve. Those were formative years with many struggles and successes.
Given the fact I only had two days to work with, I did a tour de force. After Mother’s Day lunch, we weaved around the Old Port of downtown Portland. We sauntered around the docks where we used to catch the ferry to Peak’s Island for our annual summer vacation. I stood in the pulpit of the church I attended during my teenage years. I then went out to dinner with my father at the Mexican restaurant where my sister works. Afterwards we watched the sunset on the Western Promenade and read the inscriptions on three hundred year old gravestones. The next day I poked around my old house: the pool I used to clean and do back flips into, my bedroom where I slept and did Spanish homework, the basement where I lifted weights. Every room evoked dozens of memories. Then we stopped by my high school, which has since been renovated and connected to the old junior high building. I spoke with my US History teacher and thanked her for helping give me a passion for the past. I walked around the track where I used to pole vault and do sprint relays. Then, to cap it all off, I visited with one of my best friends from high school, and got to meet her youngest daughter. After that I hit the road back to Newport.
The whole experience was a bit surreal. Since I moved to Newport over two years ago, I have felt a gentle, yet persistent tug to return to my roots. When I finally got there, I did not know what to expect or how I would respond. Yet even though it seemed that Portland had changed, I realized I had changed vastly more. I was not the same person. This came through when my emotions varied widely: at times I felt a strong twinge of nostalgia while at other times I felt detached, like I was touring a museum and observing the exhibits.
When it was all said and done, I was so glad that I went. My time in Maine brought to mind a line from the Bon Jovi song Who Says You Can’t Go Home?: “You take the home from the boy, but not the boy from his home.” We are all shaped by our past: our experiences, our family, our education, our location. That is why one of key commands of the Bible is found in the word REMEMBER. According to the PC Study Bible, this word appears 167 times in the New International Version. In Deut. 5:15 God commanded the Israelites to “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outreached arm.” God constantly admonished his people to remember who he is, who they are, and what he has done for them.
So you and I cannot forget to remember and to reflect. Our past has created our present. I am so glad for holidays such as Memorial Day, when we remember those who have paid the ultimate price in service to our nation. But remembering must become a constant companion in our daily lives. Because when it isn’t, we lose sight of our very own identity.