The Hope of Remembering

In art class one day, I was attempting to paint a landscape with oil colors. I couldn’t get a particular area just right. It seemed off. I began to pull my canvas off the easel when my teacher stopped me.

“What are you doing, Paula Frances?”

“I’m going to start over. It doesn’t look right.”

“You can’t just abandon all your work because one area doesn’t work just right. You risk losing the beauty of the experience.”

He then showed me how to paint on top of the existing picture, and how the complexity of layering the paint created a unique painting.

My art career ended in high school, but an oil painting’s complexity still leaves me in awe. I often wonder how many layers lie beneath the picture my eyes fall upon and how those layers are impacting the final work of art.

***

I wrote “Intentional” in capital letters across my 2020 planner.

My sabbatical had bled into my maternity leave. During that extended time, God healed the wreckage that over a decade of ministry had left.

I wrote “Intentional” in capital letters across my 2020 planner.

I was excited to get back to my daily life of ministry. I wanted to be intentional about leading with the Spirit and prioritizing my own spiritual and mental health as a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, and minister.

Intentional. But then COVID hit.

Our intentional plans for daycare fell through, and my husband and I juggled caring for our kids, homeschooling, and work. Date nights dissolved into strategy discussions. The trips and plans we had created for the intentional building and cultivating our relationships were replaced with Zoom meetups. And the ministry that I had just stepped back into got busier as college students needed more.

Intentional. But then COVID hit.

My intentional plans were replaced with scraping together just-in-time—or more often too late—resources for students looking for hope.

This year was anything but intentional.

My days were lost as decisions were made for me. I tried to be intentional about choosing justice and caring for my neighbors, but at the end of each day, I collapsed on my bed, embarrassed by tears testifying to my self-indulgent pity. Amidst the pain of 2020, where the acute coronavirus pandemic unveiled the 400 years of rot that the pandemic of systemic racism had created in our country, I had lost my days, weeks, and months to the unintentional decisions of “just trying to survive.”

***

When my new paper planner came in the mail I eagerly ripped open the cardboard, ready to throw the canvas of this past year away. Could I? But if I did that, would I also have to throw away the beauty of this year?

Maybe, 2121 could be my year of intentionality.

If I threw out the hardship of having my family home, would I also have to throw away the memories of reading for hours to my kids? Would I miss the memories of my children “helping” my husband create our backyard paradise? Would I lose the conversations I had with friends from college over Zoom about systemic racism and our need for repentance as we pursued racial justice? Would I have to throw the letter of a donor—who saw our panel on justice and wanted to thank us—into the trash? Would I have to lose the memory of watching my son’s first steps? Or the video calls with my baby nephews?

If I gave up this year, would I have to give up the lessons God taught my husband and me as He asked us to give abundantly, even while my husband was furloughed? Would I miss the moment when my husband insisted that he could cut his hours to care for the kids, rather than me quit my job? If I give up the late nights of juggling our calendars, would I lose the tender hugs as we cried? Or the text from friends doing the same thing, saying they were praying for us?

I cannot give up this year.

I hate this year. I hate that we saw a large portion of the church abandon Christ for the protection of a charlatan in the White House. I hate that many of my friends are wondering if they can pay their rent or mortgage and that too many of our neighbors are wondering if they can put food on the table—a fact that makes me want to scream choice words. The systemic racism that has stolen more Black lives is devastating our country and our silence is heartbreaking. The pain of both the racism and our silence cannot be ignored. I don’t believe a rosy memory exists that will make any of that pain worth it.

But I don’t want to get rid of the pain either. I want to remember it. I want to carry my neighbors’ suffering. I want to bear the burden of my ancestor’s choices that have led our country and church to be rotting from the stench of racism. I need to remember the pain so that I can hear God’s voice to “act justly, love kindness, and to walk humbly.”

The blank pages of my planner bring hope. Not because I’m throwing away this past year, but because I’m holding it close. I remember the pain and beauty. I’m taking them both with me, and holding the tension of this year as I walk into the next with hope.

Image Credit: Alexa Williams on Unsplash

Paula Frances Price
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