Trapped in an Antique Mall

My wife and I periodically enjoy strolling through an antique mall or antiquities shop. Neither of us are necessarily antique collectors but we enjoy the memories that come flooding back at us as we slowly walk down the aisles, admiring the collision of decades as if the memory makers were all thrown into an enormous bowl, vigorously stirred and tossed back on their shelves.
If history had an aroma, it would probably consist of the odorous mix of old wood, varnish, lacquer, fabric, mildew, and perhaps more than a little dust thrown in to create a musty grandma smell which excitedly greets you and embraces your olfactory system as you walk through the doors to the past.
Once inside, any little bauble or ancient treasure can transport you back in time. A fragile bell-shaped glass Christmas ornament with hand painted stripes pulled me back to when I was a child, anticipating the arrival of Santa and the special gifts he would leave. Sometimes before Christmas, I would lay on my back and scoot on top of the glitter laden cotton batting tree skirt, under the decorated tree, being ever mindful of the hot colored bulbs strung overhead and the pine needles that would dig into my skin and brush across my face if I was not careful. Once in place I would look up, totally fascinated at my own personal holiday paradise. The brightly colored lights played off the garland, ornaments and icicles that hung from the evergreen and the pungent smell of pine intensified the total intoxication of the moment. Today, the sight of a young, small lifeless body under the decorated conifer would provoke panic and probably induce a passing thought of child endangerment but at the time only brought about a total sense of awe and wonderment.
On another shelf, my wife spies an Elf on the Shelf, his mischievous face frozen in time, his once bright red, felt body now dark pink and showing its’ age. Nevertheless, Jenny is reduced to a child, her copper-haired ringlets bouncing about as she remembers searching high and low for the inanimate imp. Her freckled face lights up and her chestnut eyes grow wide as the ornery elf is discovered on the shelf above the pale blue scratchy sofa. The little six year old wonders if the elf saw her teasing her younger brothers and worse yet, whether the plastic dwarf had reported her misdeeds to Santa. A sense of guilt and dread filled her tiny body as she remembers confessing under her breathe and promising to be good.
These vignettes are just a small sampling of the memories that flood our minds as we wander about the musty aisles. We are grateful for the visual reminders or “triggers” that transport us to a particular place and time. However, as we walk out of the antique mall, we are once again made aware of the present with all its future memories to create and opportunities to explore.
However, for some, the cold reality of their lives have left them emotionally paralyzed, their eyes glazed over in grief, fear, pain or anger. The feeling of hopelessness heightens their sense of helplessness as they meander through their days. Often times, their only escape from their present misery is to look back, to reminisce of better times, to linger on “the good ole days”…unaware of their present despair, they willingly lose their grasp with reality; embracing instead the jealous mistress of their distorted past. They are essentially trapped in an antique mall.
Still others pitch their tent and camp out in the cemetery of self-pity. They slowly pass by each head stone and read the epitaphs as if they are long lost friends lying in state. However, each tombstone represents their own regrets…”I blamed my parents for all my mistakes”, “I should have treated my kids better but I chose the bottle over my family”, “I cheated my company out of thousands”, “I didn’t mean to hurt my wife; I need help!”. Wearing their black cloak of pride draped across their shoulders, they pass each grave of regret, pause and ponder, bending down only to lay their wreath of bitterness and shame, gradually moving on to the next.
So what makes the difference in humanity where one person is basking in the warmth of a treasured memory but in contrast, another is shivering in the presence of the man in the mirror? Forgiveness. Hope. And the first yields the latter. True forgiveness to God first. 1 John 1:8-10 NKJV says–8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. We’re not perfect, we make mistakes…and we sin. That doesn’t need to be the end of the story. We need to confess our wrong doings and maintain a healthy relationship with the only One who really knows us…God. But sometimes it is even harder to forgive ourselves than to seek God’s forgiveness. It’s at those times we must remind ourselves that there is no sin so great it cannot be pardoned through grace.
And let us not forget we must forgive others for their transgressions, regardless of whether they are real or imagined. Colossians 3:13 reads–Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Forgiveness begins the complete healing process: spiritually, emotionally, and at times, physically.
And once we have a spiritually healthy heart, we once again have the room to hope. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV states, For, I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Hope AND a future! How awesome is that! And even though we don’t know what the future will bring, it is our responsibility to make sure we are making the right decisions today to ensure a future full of hope and great memories for a lifetime.
So the next time you decide to browse through the local antique mall, ask yourself this question, “am I in here to visit for a while and enjoy some healthy memories or am I tempted to make it an extended stay”? I HOPE you will choose wisely and live life to the full!

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