Why I Should Be a Pillar of Salt and Other Thoughts on Remembering

There are sensations that stick with you for life. When I recall my earliest memories it is of the blue/brown/green mix of shag carpet in our living room. I would spread bare toes into it and lie on my back, ceiling fan whirling overhead. When the weather snaps cold I crave the thick tomato base of my mama’s vegetable soup. When the dogwoods stretch wide their petals I want her cold chicken salad on a piece of soft white bread.

There is an ever present need in my life to get back to that place. The place where soup bowls were endless, made from the love of my mama’s hands and the eternal depths of her big enamel pot. That place represents safety in my child heart and my grown-up heart.

If you have served overseas for a hot second then you have felt the gift of uncertainty that comes along with the territory. From rushing to make flight connections to the middle of nowhere to wondering how you’ll ever navigate the open air market with its haggling and smells…oh the smells. Maybe for you it’s fantasizing about a commute that involves a car and short drive rather than the three buses, one taxi and a camel ride. Could be a burning desire for something that resembles an American cheeseburger. It could be just a simple conversation with someone without feeling like a zoo animal being studied.

We all have those comfortable spaces and places. Even if they only live in our memories, they are very much alive. Some of us have even turned the unsafe spaces in our memories into places we dwell and find security in. For years, unknowingly, I made my identity “the girl with no parents.” You see my obsession with hot soup and cold chicken salad is more about my grief than just wanting something that fills my belly. I’d toss jokes around about being an orphan because that insulated me from fully feeling the weight of it all. Fast forward to my wedding day and then further to my children’s births and all of my safety fell apart as the dam of grief broke over me.

I once heard someone say “Be careful what you choose to remember.” I’ve rolled this sentence around in my mind a hundred times and I find it to ring true in my own life. Our memories can deceive us. I’m sure the shag carpeting isn’t exactly the shades of blue/brown/green I recollect in my mind’s eye. If I really remembered my mama’s cooking so well then maybe I could recreate it, but I am yet to find my way into that mythical wardrobe and unlock the secret to her soup. I sure do wish I’d find the recipes tucked somewhere in a forgotten trunk, but alas, no.

Life on the field can be full and empty all at the same time. It’s easy to look over our shoulders and think what we had is better. Jesus warned against this, didn’t he? He told us that looking back, when our shoulders have turned to the work ahead, would mean we aren’t fit to serve the Kingdom. Those are bold words. Those words scare me. I look back an awful lot. Call me a pillar of salt because I’m right up there with Lot’s wife when it comes to looking back.

When we look ahead our horizon may be stormy and anything but well mapped. It is understandable why looking back might be appealing. In retrospect things almost always seem simpler than in truth they were. Perhaps you are struggling in this space right now. Are you looking toward the end of your term? Are you wondering if you could just go home and back to life before the good-hard-unexpected of life overseas?

When Jesus breaks bread he says “This do in REMEMBRANCE of me.” When we are building the Kingdom, we are remembering. We are remembering the safest of spaces. We are remembering the thing that gives us the surest of futures. I used the phrase “gift of uncertainty” earlier in my ramblings here. That is a gift of God. The gift of not knowing the future, but of knowing Him and His unconditional, boundless, time transcending safety. This is why we can go forward unafraid. This is why we can endure three buses, one taxi and a camel ride just to move boldly into the place He has called us even if that place is a long way from where we started.

How has uncertainty been a gift in your life?

10 Comments

  1. Katie Rose May 3, 2017

    I am looking toward the end of my term–in two months, 15 days. And the horizon is certainly unknown! But it is a gift, as you so thoughtfully said, because the immediate horizon, before the looming storm + mountains ahead, is clear, like the sun’s rays through my window in SA this morning: I know what He has called me to do in these last two months. I’m called be here, pour out my heart, rest in the reality of living in the paradox that His Kingdom is right here in the middle of all this darkness, and build up others who will remain after I’m gone.

    So it is a gift to be uncertain about some things right now, because there is “one good portion” that, like Mary, I don’t have to be uncertain about.

  2. Bianca May 4, 2017

    Jessica, your article so blessed me today. This is my first time on the field and I have been here a whole 14 days and already am worrying about what’s behind me and the life of stability I feel like I gave up. These feelings have confused me because this has been years in the making and months of preparation and now all I can think about is home and suddenly those memories seem like good ones, regardless of the fact that I felt unhappy in my profession and knew that wasn’t where the Father wanted me, so I do know backwards isn’t the right way but forwards currently feels so scary and uncertain.
    ‘Life on the field can feel so full and empty at the same time’ I really loved this because already in my short time here I have felt this. Never have I felt quite as lonely as I do here serving as a single woman and also the only worker here at the moment, yet never have I felt such a closeness and a sweetness from the Father as He has held me every step of the way.
    Anyways, I just wanted to say thank you for writing this because I know I can’t dwell on the past and paint it in a different light to try and convince myself that backwards is better and I just needed reminding of that. Onwards and upwards!

    1. Cecily May 4, 2017

      Welcome to the field, Bianca! I hope we can connect and bring encouragement to each other.
      May the Father strengthen and encourage your heart, providing the support that you need in these early days.

      1. Bianca May 4, 2017

        Hi Cecily, thank you so much! I would really love to connect, what a lovely idea. Send me an email! [email protected], I would love to hear from you.

    2. Tracy May 4, 2017

      Thanks Bianca for sharing! I’ve been in the field for over 2 years, and yet I still sometimes have depression that hits me in waves, and I think “man, I need to just get back to my normal life from before!” I, just like you, was very unhappy in my profession and knew that God moved me to the place that HE wants me right now. It’s hard, this adjustment period for sure. But stay close to HIM, even when you feel like He might be backing away (I felt like that for a short time) because HE will never back away or leave you from the place that HE brought you to. We can thank God for His love and closeness in these overwhelming, uncomfortable, and uncertain times. I will be praying for you!

      1. Bianca May 4, 2017

        Tracy, thank you so much for your message! It was so encouraging and I really appreciate everything you said. Wow, what would we do without Velvet Ashes connecting us and being able to share our stories and experiences with one another? It is a great comfort to me to know that you have been through something similar. Thank you for sharing this with me, and thank you for the prayers!

    3. Jessica Hoover May 4, 2017

      Oh Bianca, I wish I could wrap you up tight in a hug! Just let me reassure you that what you are experiencing is normal. I am praying you have confidence in your place and that you will lean into every part of this calling. So blessed my weak words spoke to you today!

  3. Elizabeth May 4, 2017

    The fact that memories form us, that everything that’s ever happened to us forms us, is solidly true. Was talking with a friend during the retreat about roles versus identity and how there’s so much distinction placed between them sometimes. And while I agree — my identity in Christ is my most important, most sturdy, most true, identity, it’s also true that every single role I’ve ever held has formed me in some way, similarly to the way every memory I have has formed me in some way. I am who I am, and you are who you are, in part because of our memories and because of our roles. So while, no, the roles we play do not define us, they do form us into the people we are today. Just thoughts stirred in response to your post and the retreat 🙂

    I’m so glad you touched on the Lord’s Supper here. It is one of those formational memories for me. I grew up in a church that celebrated communion every week, and the repeated physical act of partaking of the bread and the wine has become a part of who I am today. My love of the Church global, my love of communion, my belief in the power of communion to define and memorialize us as a people, all formed from this tradition.

    1. Jessica Hoover May 4, 2017

      Thanks for sharing friend. Communion has wrecked me as of recent years. I see it as transcendent of the table and it seems to reach itself into so many experiences. YES! YES! YES! to what you said about all the different parts of our identities. I think the hardest part about that is the continual evolution of who I am and how that intermingles with my identity in Christ.

      1. Elizabeth May 4, 2017

        Yes — continual evolution of who I am. Just read something about how we change in marriage and how everyone has more than one marriage — it’s just sometimes to the same person. We change and evolve, and our spouses change and evolve, and our marriages have to flex along with us. Our marriage is not the same as it was a decade ago or even 5 years ago. Often people think this only happens if there is infidelity or some sort of crisis, but we have changed so much in nearly 17 years (and in the 21 years since we met), but we can’t point to any particular crisis that has altered us. Instead, it’s the simple growth and evolution of our personhoods, combined in the entity called marriage. And of course for us, so much of that change was instigated by living overseas, but not all of it.

        I know this is not on point — very much a tangent, just inspired by your reply 🙂 Thank you for being so thought-provoking. 😉

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