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Remembering You


I thank my God every time I remember you.


Philippians 1:3


We all have memories of people. Some of those memories are burned into our hearts and minds, never to be forgotten. Most memories of people are just your average, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety memories.


The first step in remembering is to wind the clock back in our brains to another time. Another place. Different circumstances. Sometimes it’s something bright, great, and beautiful. Sometimes it’s dark and disturbing.


One of the best and brightest memories I have is the first time I ever saw Mary Ann Hildebrand. I didn’t know her. I was sitting in the back of a room, just hanging out with some guys. Then the youth pastor got up and introduced this tall, thin girl who talked about her faith in Jesus.


I really don’t remember what she said, but I remember her. She had her hair pulled up on top of her head in a bun. She wore green candy-cane-colored glasses. She had on a dark blue tee shirt with a white fish logo and blue jeans.


There were no lightning bolts or blasts of thunder. The lights didn’t blink. The earth didn’t open, swallowing us up to an early grave. There were no trumpet blasts or loud, beating drums.


I didn’t rush forward and ask her out. I didn’t get on one knee and propose. And yet, that moment is etched into my memory, never to be covered over or removed. It was the start of something new. Something exciting. Something joyous.


And then there are memories on the opposite side of the universe. There was that day an older kid invited me into his basement to play. It was the start of a downward spiral that haunted me for years.


Paul is walking down the memory lane inside his head with joy as he thinks back on his interactions with the Philippians. There must have been lots and lots of things to remember. Things they did together. Meals they ate together. Paul has no regrets about his time with the Philippians.


And then there were the conversations they had. Paul sharing his life, a life that started when he was born. Born to parents he didn’t choose. A place he didn’t pick off a map. Into a faith he didn’t select. With talents and gifts, he didn’t do anything to deserve or earn. His parents then made decisions for him about his upbringing and education.


We’re all like this. We’re born into this life, a life we didn’t choose. We didn’t sit around, looking at a parent selection app. Flipping through lots of pictures and descriptions of potential parent applications. Trying to figure out which ones were the best match.


But no matter Paul’s background, and how wildly different it was to the Philippians, there was something more precious that brought out this thankfulness to God. It was their common connection with Jesus Christ.


As brothers and sisters in the faith, Paul and the Philippians have a closeness that’s greater and more intense than family ties. They have a connection that runs deeper than our DNA. They are more than glued together by God himself.


Think about that for a minute. We have an eternal connection with the maker and maintainer of the universe. He personally not only made us, but he wasn’t willing to sit on the sidelines of heaven when we ran off the rails.


It would have been easy for him to just let us fall away from him as we did our own thing. Turning away from the one who loves us. From the one who made us to enjoy him forever. To bring us back to himself, he sent his one and only son to pay the price we couldn’t pay.


Yes, he paid it all, but we have a part to play. We have the choice to look towards his loving, kind, and gracious gift that remakes us into his son and daughter. Or we have the choice to turn away and keep doing our own thing.


But think about this for a minute. If Paul thanked God every time he thought of the Philippians, and there were no regrets, imagine how God thinks about you and me as he thinks about us. He left his throne to come to earth for us. And that’s a good thing. But it doesn’t stop there.


He continually loves us each and every minute of each and every day. He continually keeps reaching out towards us. He never pulls his hand away. He’s always seeking. Always coming after. Always calling us back to himself.


And why? He’s our God and we’re his child. Period. And there’s nothing in the world that we can do to undo that. He made us. Comes after us. Paid for us. Died for us. And was raised from the dead for us.


God went to an awful lot of trouble for us. And why? Because he wants nothing but the best for us. He’ll never stop coming after us. As one writer put it, he’s the Hound of Heaven[1]. And like a dog, he’ll never stop seeking us out. Coming after us.


God has no regrets about making you. Loving you. Dying for you. So, why do we keep turning our backs on him?

[1] Francis Thompson (1859–1907)


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