This week I had a Zoom conversation with two men who live in Saudi Arabia. One I’ve known for twenty years and the other a new friend. The reason for the meeting was to hear one of the men tell his life story. He spoke with detail and emotion for an hour-and-a-half, and it was clear God was reminding him how he’d never been alone through any of it.
I recently read a book, The Intentional Year, by Holly and Glen Packiam. They wrote, “Why can’t God just bring about the changes in our lives that he wants? “
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I often wish God had a system like the movie The Matrix where I could plug a connection into a port in the back of my neck and suddenly know fluent Spanish, or jiu jitsu, or how to fly a helicopter, or play jazz trombone solos.
Wouldn’t that be great? I’d plug in and add new stuff every day. I would be a walking encyclopedia of information and skills.
But there’s a problem with that scenario. Instant learning wouldn’t put me through the changes required to go with those skills. Long-term learning changes our thinking and patience and character. And it’s those life changes that make us better people. What if I had the skills but not the character to use them? I’d just get into trouble and make a big mess.
I remember enjoying the movie Total Recall, back in the VHS days. One of the story lines is about a company called Rekall that planted false memories into people’s brains to experience the thrill of, say, climbing Mount Everest, without having to travel so far, get so cold, or risk death and injury. The premise being that after we return home from a grand adventure it is the memory of the exotic trip that we keep. Why not bypass the trip itself and go straight to the memory?
Rekall’s pitch was: “What is it that is the same about every single vacation you have ever taken? You! You’re the same. No matter where you go, there you are. It’s always the same old you.”
But that is completely wrong. It’s never the same old you. Every trip, every adventure, every relationship changes who we are and how we act. We’re different people because of our experiences, and it goes much deeper than memories.
Cyndi and I recently visited Saudi Arabia for two weeks where we talked about marriage. And as a bonus we visited fascinating archeological sites that point directly toward Moses and the Old Testament. What if we hadn’t gone on that trip but someone like Rekall simply planted the memories in our brain (and loaded photos on our phones)? Would it have been the same?
It wouldn’t. Not for us, and not for those who heard us speak.
We wouldn’t have experienced new friendships or deepened twenty-year-old friendships. We’d have missed the joy of sharing what we’ve learned about marriage. and the expanded understanding of God’s work in difficult places.
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If you’ve spent much time around me you’ve heard me tell stories; probably the same stories more than one time. It’s how I teach and how I relate to myself and other people. But I don’t tell stories for entertainment as much as I tell them to make a point or to show how we become the people we are today.
I don’t know how many times I’ve told the same stories to Cyndi about how we met and what I noticed about her and how I lost her but she found me and rescued me again. I tell those stories over and over because I don’t want to forget them. Even more, I tell them because I want to reinforce the man and woman we’ve become. Those stories are evidence of God’s work in our lives, and markers of how we’ve grown and changed.
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My Zoom conversation was a powerful reminder how God uses experiences to change us. Hearing my friend’s stories reminds me of what I’d’ve missed had our trip been a memory implant rather than an actual adventure. I’m glad we had the experience.
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“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”
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