Recently, a trip to Texas — and a couple of hours free in the schedule — gave me the chance to go to my old stomping grounds (Carrollton, TX), take a drive by the old house, and walk through the sanctuary at First Baptist – the church I was serving right before I came to LifeWay. It was a short excursion down memory lane and since it’s been nearly 12 years since I’ve served there, it was a special way to spend my lunch break from the conference.
Admittedly, I have a tendency toward nostalgia. I always flashback to the moments and experiences associated with a place. My family enjoys making fun of me for this.
But this experience didn’t leave me sad or wishful for the “good ole days.” It actually took to me to a place of gratitude and worship. The reflection over these years brought back moment after moment when God took care of us and allowed us to see the mighty things He was doing, even in hard seasons.
In scripture, you read time after time when God says, “Remember.” And in many of those cases, He gave certain signs to help us remember. Like Noah – “When you see the rainbow, remember my promise to you.” Or how about Moses – “Pick the staff up Moses, and remember this rod has become mine.”
The Tabernacle was filled with reminders of their God that led them out of Egypt and provided for them every step of their journey. There’s more beyond that – the pile of stones for Joshua, the names they would give places where God had delivered His people. And it goes all the way to the most powerful reminder when Jesus said, “This is my body – this is my blood.”
Every once in a while, go back to those places where God has acted in your life – the college campus or the seminary classroom – or maybe even the hospital or the altar where something happened that changed your life.
Once I saw this happen in one of my best friends. I was in Los Angeles for an event with my friend Luke Garrett. We had some time on our hands and he asked me if I wanted to go to the campus of UCLA, where he had been a student years before. I did, and so we went.
I had no idea what was ahead for me. He took me through the campus with a spring in his step. There was the building where he had won the Frank Sinatra Award and the place where he used to hang out with his friends.
Finally, we made our way to the music building and I could tell he was looking for a particular room until finally he said, “This is it.”
He went straight to the piano and started playing a song that I knew well. It was one of the first songs he wrote that others would hear. It’s called, “A Simple Song.” Before long I was singing it with him. When he stopped, I could see the tears rolling down his face.
He explained we were in the very room where he had written the song and it was on that very piano he had written it. And while writing that song he would share in concert after concert for decades, he had surrendered his talent and life to the Lord anew. I knew I had witnessed something amazing.
Here’s the truth – it’s not going to be the songs we sing or the things we do that stand out in our lives. It’s going to be the places and the people God used to help us along the way. It will be the times we experienced the faithfulness of our God and the work He has done to grow us up in Him that will matter.
It’s the journey that counts.
So, standing in the sanctuary of First Baptist Carrollton, I texted Pastor Brent Taylor and said, “I enjoyed looking around and thanking God that my journey went through here.”
He replied quickly – “As are we.”
The old saying goes, “You can’t go back again.” I disagree. Not only can we go back, every once in a while, we should.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.