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“I remember a place where You spoke my name and I heeded to Your call ...”
from The Old Landmark, composer unknown
One of the best things about being back in North Carolina is the opportunity it gives me to re-connect with old friends and with family. I have had wonderful lunches and dinners with friends I had not seen in years; as well as some good, old-fashioned quality time with my sons and my grandson.
It got me thinking about those times in life that we call “full-circle” experiences. By that I mean the experiences that bring us back to some point where we have previously been. When I moved back here last month, I rented an apartment in the same complex in which I lived in the early to mid-90’s. There has been extensive new construction in this area since then - lots of newer, more modern housing choices. But I felt strongly drawn back to where I lived before, with my sons; just the three of us. And I still feel a fresh sense of peace and comfort each time I drive into the complex and enter my new home; which is smaller than the apartment we lived in back then, but with a very similar layout and “feel.”
Today, a song I haven’t thought about in years has been “stuck on re-play” in my head:
Lord take me back to the Old Landmark
There I’ll make a new commitment
And begin a fresh start
Help me find my direction
Place a burden in my heart
Lord take me back to that Old Landmark.
These lyrics speak of the beneficial spiritual experience of being taken back to a place where you’ve already been. I think that, sometimes, we need that. Going back to “old landmarks” in our lives can serve several purposes, including:
1. Looking at scenes from the past with the insight we have in the present. It is amazing how different things can appear in hindsight; and how what we see, in the present, can change how we feel about what happened in the past.
2. Healing old wounds - Sometimes the “old landmarks” we need to re-visit are people with whom we’ve had relationships and/or continue to have unresolved issues. A conversation, after the passage of some time, can bring about the healing we need. An apology - even a long overdue one - extended or accepted can relieve us of long-held hurt, shame, or regret.
3. Affirming our strengths - Even when the old landmarks were the sites of painful experiences, briefly revisiting them reminds us that we got through those experiences and we are still here!
4. Closure - Going back to our old landmarks gives us the opportunity to move beyond them again; perhaps on better terms this time, into the future that God has planned for us.
See, here’s the thing - I notice that those lyrics that keep playing in my head don’t end with “Lord, take me back ...” They go on to speak of making a new commitment; of beginning a fresh start; of finding one’s direction. So when we are called or drawn back to our old landmarks, it is for the purpose of getting back in touch with whatever was good there, or re-claiming whatever we might have lost there. We go back to the old landmarks to remember the things we need to remember - about ourselves; about our callings; about our priorities. We go back for renewal. We go back - having left at least once - to complete whatever was left unfinished, so we can move unencumbered into our next chapter.
There is a line in the verse of the song that says, “I remember a place where You spoke my name and I heeded to Your call ...” I remember that place, too, and God has brought me back here; back to one of my most significant old landmarks. I am happy and blessed in this “full circle” experience I am having. I am clear that I have not returned as the same person who left. I’ve had ups and downs, successes and set-backs, joys and sorrows; all of which contribute to my seeing so much that is so familiar in ways I never did before. I’m also clear that I have not been brought back to my old landmark to just sit here. There are new commitments to be made and fulfilled; fresh starts to be begun; new directions for ministry to be discerned - for me and for Imani. The “burden on my heart” is heavier; more urgent than it has ever been.
Might anyone else need to re-visit an old landmark? I am praying that we all will heed the call to finish our unfinished business and move forward with renewed commitment to God’s service. We were created to glorify God. God reaches others through us. It is time to be about our Creator’s business as never before!