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Looking Back

I didn’t want to sign the papers. It didn’t seem fair. Why was my name being tarnished? Why was I paying for someone else 's mistakes?

The attorney’s office was an hour away. Each freeway marker indicated that we were further away from home and closer to the dreaded moment. I phased in and out. One minute, I felt stick to my stomach. The next moment, I felt numb and detached.

The logic propelling the decision for my husband and I to file for bankruptcy jointly was simple. I understood it and, I hated it.

To refuse bankruptcy meant that I would save my credit score from plummeting but there was no guarantee that I would be protected from debt collectors. Since I was co-owner of major purchases like our home, I would be considered liable. At best, the inevitable would be delayed. And as the saying goes, I was between a rock and a hard place.

Our financial crisis story is now 9 years behind us.

This past October, my husband and I recounted the event to a group of married, engaged/dating and singles in Southern California as part of our Naked and Unashamed seminar. We’ve shared numerous times before but this time it was notable; it felt more removed.

It’s hard to pinpoint a definitive cause. Whether it’s because life has a way of demanding our attention to present realities and responsibilities. Whether it’s the lure to escape into the possibilities of the future. Whether it’s the illusions and myth that time heals all wounds. Whether it’s compassion fatigue from the continuous stream of headlines of tragedies, personal, local or global. What was clear however was that journeying down memory lane was necessary.

In the Biblical account of Israelites journey from the oppression of slavery in Egypt to freedom, God insists that they remember their story of rescue – what they were rescued from, what they were rescued to, and who rescued them.

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from their with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” Deuteronomy 5:15 ESV

As time goes on, the Israelites recollection becomes skewed and distorted. Their memory of the days of hardship and suffering begins to fade. They forget how God heard, saw, and responded to their cries for relief. Instead, they fantasize about their days in Egypt as one of luxury, comfort, and abundance. This kind of romanticism fuels their discontentment and grumbling.

“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.” Numbers 11:5 ESV

They even go so far as to accuse God of leading them out of Egypt only to bring them to the desert to die from starvation and thirst, which was far from the truth.

What can we take from this scenario?

How we remember the past, how we make sense of it reveals something about how we interpret the world and how we anticipate and prepare for what’s to come.

Moreover, reflecting with honesty including the parts that call for remorse and lament as well as the parts that invite honor, blessing, kindness avails something holy and sacred.

My betrayal, despair, confusion, chaos, and death awakens others to their story. It opens the door for others to walk their terrain, survey their landscape, and excavate the particularities of their pain and heartache for the purposes of discovering the hope that is rooted in Calvary’s cross.

My life’s agony pales in comparison to Christ’s, yet it evokes the scene at Gethsemane where Jesus wrestled with the impending death and weight of wrath.1 Three times he bellows out, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”. Three times he surrenders his life to the Father in utter trust. He declares, “It is finished”2 and commits his spirit into the good hands of the Father.3 In this, his name is mocked. His body is marred. And he pays the ultimate price for our failures.

The paradox of Christ’s death is that it leads to life. Without death, there would be no resurrection, ascension, and return. Likewise, our stories of death are pivotal and profitable for life if we look back and remember.

1 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matt 26: 39 ESV

2 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19: 28-30 ESV

3 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Luke 23: 46 ESV

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