This list could be very long. I’ll make an attempt at some of them.
The memory of the first time you felt a warm sandy beach and put your toes into the ocean.
The memory of when you realized a parent loved you simply because you are you and not because what you have done for this parent.
The memory of when you realized you were truly loved by a friend, someone who didn’t have to love you like family but did anyway.
The memory of the first time you saw the Grand Canyon.
The memory of seeing your first sunset. And who you were with when you did.
The memory of when you knew you were forgiven by Jesus.
The memory of when you realized that Jesus loves you even in the depths of your shame.
The memory of your first kiss.
The memory of walking down the aisle on your wedding day.
The memory of when that child tells you he/she loves you.
The memory of your child coming to understand that Jesus loves him/her even in the depths of his/her shame.
At the end of your life, these are the memories you want to play over and over in your mind. It is not what you have accumulated. It is not your list of accomplishments. It is these simple beautiful memories that carry no regrets or shame that will bring you joy again and again and again.
The memory of walking down the aisle on your wedding day is surely one of these memories, especially for the ones who made the hard and right decisions before marriage to have this memory. No doubt there were many hard decisions which had to be made. There were many decisions that had to be weighed as right or wrong. Culture does not value these decisions even as culture tries to sell us on the white dress and the drama of “not seeing the bride before the wedding,” etc. There is something almost beyond words to that moment when I walked down the aisle and saw John waiting for me at the altar. In that moment I knew I was getting this moment because of the many hard decisions I had made up to that moment. I had no regrets. We together didn’t justify any shortcuts. We did the hard things because we both believed in this moment and the rightness of this holy marriage.
I had only one opportunity to give myself that moment and I did. It is the story I get to tell again and again and again. And tell it without shame, without lies, without bending the truth, without leaving out parts of it. I will have this memory for the rest of my life. And it will not be clouded with memories I want to forget.
There are some memories you want to have when you are 70. As a single now, you have the chance to make this memory. Which means you have hard decisions to make now. And must keep those decisions.
For some of you, you already think it is too late. You’ve already made the wrong decisions. You can never have that memory. Wrong. Don’t think this way. Now is the time to start making these hard and right decisions.
I was just at a wedding of a grown teen of mine. I remember the day he came to me as an 18-year admitting he had sex with his girlfriend. He was awaiting my disappointed response. I looked at him and said,
“I’m sad that you didn’t value you enough and decided to make your relationship ordinary.”
He heard me. I saw him get married these few years later and have that moment when his bride walked down the aisle. I saw him look at her and then look at me. I saw him know he made the right decisions with this one to get this moment. He knows how special it is. He knows the lack of regrets and justification and bending the truth. This is the memory that will be with him when he is 70.
Did he go pure into this marriage? No. Did he go pure into his relationship with his bride? Yes. And that was evident for all to see.
I have been to lots of wedding like this. As a youth pastor I have walked through the bad decisions and the shame of those decisions with too many. I have also “coached” them into good matches, marriages, and wedding day memories they will have when they are 70.
You can have this also. No matter what your past looks like. You can start now. This is your hope. Don’t get caught up in that now disappointing Plan A of a pure white wedding you dreamed of as a young teen that is now gone. Find your Plan B. Plan B is you choosing to set goals, your tenacity giving you room to change and revise those goals because deep down you know you are worthy of having something good happen to you. You are. You still can have this memory.
The time to start this is now. Make the hard decisions now. Live through those hard decisions. The good news is this hard decision time period is temporary. It is going to end. And it is going to end with a beautiful ending—because you made those hard decisions when you did.
This is worth it every time.