If I hadn’t already called dibs on teleportation, I would claim “photographic memory” as my superpower.
When I was a kid, I read the Cam Jansen books. The main character is a red-headed girl, so like Nancy Drew and Anne (of the green gables) you just knew she was going to be awesome. And sure enough, she was. Cam (real name: Jennifer) is a super detective, who uses her photographic memory to solve mysteries. Best as I can remember, she blinks her eyes and says *click* and can remember anything.
Sign me up.
I spent last week with high schoolers. First, teenage-sitting for two of my favorite people, then, on a retreat with 50 high school students, including twelve of my own. (I’ve known them for seven years and so feel like the possessive pronoun is appropriate.) And I so desperately want to remember each and every moment.
Musty copies of Emerson and Thoreau delicately leafed through to find the perfect poetry recitation on Valentine’s Day while I make two teenage boys omelets for breakfast. *click*
Six girls sitting on basement barstools, with their backs to me, reaching over each other for bags of chocolate, half-eaten chips and one lone bag of carrots as their laughter melds together. *click*
The face of the confident senior as he shouts out song lyrics in the middle of a crowded dance floor, with no care for being on key. *click*
Late night cuddle fests on top of four interlocking sleeping bags when conversations are no longer coherent and I can no longer tell which limb belongs to which girl. *click*
An iPod stuffed inside a cup for better amplification to accompany a Disney sing-along and dance party in between chopping vegetables in the kitchen. *click*
Hands clasped in prayer as thanksgiving is offered up for honey nut cheerios in the same breath as God’s unfailing grace. *click*
Seven years feels like a whole lifetime. How many snapshots of the Lord’s faithfulness have I already forgotten? What moments of joy lay dormant in my memory? Seven years ago, these faces were names on a page. Now, they are stories, tears, personalized laughter, brokenness and redemption, fears and hopes. Seven years is an eternity.
I am often asked why I spend so much of my free time with teenagers. Why I answer my phone when it rings at two in the morning. Why someone pushing 30 needs snapchat on her phone. Why I would drive an hour across town in rush hour traffic for a half hour conversation over coffee. For me, these snapshots are the reason. But perhaps for you, I need to go back a bit further.
I’m sitting in a semi-circle of girls, facing my choir teacher, listening to her tell a class full of public school show choir girls that irrespective of what we believed, she knew that the God of the universe had allowed her husband to spin circles on the snowy highway, hit the median and walk away without a scratch. *click*
It is a warm night in Goshen, Virginia and I am sitting on the steps of a Rockbridge dorm, bombarding my Young Life leader with hard questions about heaven and hell, confident that even though the answers may allude her, she will be there to hear any of my hard questions. *click*
A rambunctious group of junior high girls is piled into the second floor church bathroom – the one with the couches – ignoring our discussion questions and giggling about boys as our high school leaders smiled and followed along. *click*
A table of eager fourth graders nervously eye each other’s frilly Bible covers and meticulously placed book tabs as we get ready to study Esther and Ruth with two women who have seemingly arbitrarily decided to invest in a small group of 10 year old girls. *click*
I could start answering your questions by explaining that I was well-loved as a teenager. Older women opened their lives to me and let me ask hard questions and showed me that though life would be difficult, God had given us each other. I am simply following the model that was given me.
“ We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.” 1 John 4:19, MSG
Isn’t it the model we have all been given? There are a million ways to love from love. But for as long as they will have me, I will choose this way. Seven years is just the beginning.