I sometimes joke about the lack of some attribute being due to me not being present when God handed them out. My wife would be the first to tell you that I have one of the worst memories on the planet. Our children would enthusiastically say amen to that. I’ve finally reach a point in life where I preserve my breath and choose not to argue with either of them about facts surrounding some memorable incident that happened long ago. No matter the doubt I feel burning inside of me about the details, my presenting arguments to the contrary is an exercise in imprecision better left alone. With oftentimes less than functional memory, which I possess, the only conclusion is that I must have been absent the day God issued the ability to memorize to humankind.
We had our traditional New Year’s Day family and friends gathering at our house this year. As we talked about how long we’ve been doing this, I depended on my wife’s memory to retrieve when this iconic event started. She stated, with absolute certainty, that it was thirty years ago; that sounded good to me. Why in the world would I argue the point? The gathering is one of those warm and toasty family affairs where we host; prepare the traditional black-eyed peas (for good luck); along with a few other tasty items. Everyone else brings a pot of something, and we end up with more food than a high school football team could devour. The last couple of years, however, I’ve done a better job of gauging just how many vittles to prepare. I don’t mean to brag, but I do most of the cooking; thus, I have a vested interest in not working more than necessary. Trying to save labor has become more important in recent years, because I’m getting older. I don’t possess the level of energy I did in times past. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the event, it takes me longer to recover now from all the work invested in preparing.
This year, I noticed something I hadn’t really been paying too much attention to: the fellowship. Those in attendance ranged in ages from early twenties to mid-eighties. I took a little time to meander around the house and listen to the conversations that were taking place. I didn’t necessarily want to insert myself in what was being discussed, I simply wanted to listen. I noticed the older folks were spending time reminiscing about stories from decades gone by. These were stories drenched in the thick basting of time, creating drama effortlessly. And the younger folks were talking about more contemporary occurrences, not as interesting, but certain to be stories of old in the decades and scores to come. Everyone was enjoying the food, however, it all seemed to be going down much more pleasantly with the added ingredient of conversation. It occurred to me more so this year than ever before that the priceless quality of this gathering is the relational dynamic that occurs, people doing what God made us to do: interact with each other.
Although I’ve confessed to the fact that my memory is far less than digitally perfect, I think I’ll remember the 2017 New Year’s Day family gathering better than any of the others prior. This was the time I understood more fully the value and the purpose of family gatherings. I found myself being more Mary than Martha. Holy Scripture (Luke 10:38-42) tells of the occasion where Jesus is visiting the home of Martha and her sister Mary. Martha is rushing about, trying to be the perfect host, making sure all is done well in the name of service. Mary, on the other hand, is sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him talk. Although food and how things are logistically handled are important, it’s the fellowship that takes place which leaves lasting memories. Folks attending our annual New Year’s Day gathering may only remember the black-eyed peas among all the other foods served; however, I’m sure they’ll remember the fellowship and the warm hearts that come as a by-product of the gathering each year.
I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.