This picture hangs in my spare room…
…a priceless eclectic collage, predominantly of my teenage years, complete with plenty of bad hair mistakes; pink, blue and red, an assortment of festival snapshots - many taken knee deep in Glastonbury mud, featuring friends past and present, snippets of family life, holidays to France and an abundance of tragic grunge inspired fashion choices.
All these memories, stored in a giant wooden Ikea frame, immortalized for all to see.
We often end up standing in front of it with visitors to our cottage laughing, reminiscing and talking about some of the now slightly concerning stuff I got up to as a rebellious 15 year old. But despite the ridicule it often evokes, I love this picture. It reminds me of who I was, how far I’ve come and more importantly how God came into my life as a 21 year old student and utterly transformed it.
When times were hard as a discouraged youth worker, I would stand in front of this frame and it would remind me afresh that God has the ability to change absolutely anybody.
Every year in our youth group I would buy a multi pack of disposable cameras. I would hand these out to individuals to take shots during the next week of what their life is like outside of the Hub (The Hub was our drop in/cafe style youth project for youth aged 11-24). Collecting the photos from the concerned shop assistant behind the counter at Boots was often an anxious shopping trip. Without exception there was always a selection of photos that would come back black with censored stickers on, that Boots refused to develop due to nature of the pictures (that often took some explaining). We also witnessed an entire crime once, with the explanation “well, you wanted to see what we got up to in the week!”.
However by the time we left the youth work in Dagenham, six years worth of these collages stretched up the main wall of the Hub. The guys loved them, I think in a way it gave them a sense of ownership of the building and belonging to somewhere. They’d become so much a part of our lives over the 7 years we worked with them, but it was great to see the ways the Hub has also become a part of their lives and was now woven into the memories of their teenage years.
Memory is a wonderful thing, as I am witnessing my beloved 86 year old grandmother’s memories being stolen away from her by the early stages of Alzheimer's, it’s a painful time, but has really made me treasure my own memories and thank God for them.
The Bible is soaked in the importance of remembering, in fact the word ‘remember’ appears 167 times in the N.I.V. As it teaches us the rich history of humankind, reminding us of who we are, humanity’s fall, the history of God’s people and ultimately of God’s love for us and our Saviour’s rescue, our past, our future - it’s our story, our identity. And as we tell others about our own testimonies, share with them the amazing message of what Jesus has done, and see others turning to Him we weave even more strands into that epic story.
So I urge you, (as I have this week been reminded), to be thankful for the amazing gift of memory He has given to us, for God’s word and all it teaches us about our past and our future and for our testimonies that remind us of how awesome our God is and are such incredible tools in sharing our faith with others.
Laura Haddow is an advertising exec for Youthwork magazine, a qualified youth worker, self confessed diet coke addict, singer/songwriter and lover of the colour grey. You can follow Laura now @laurahaddow