At a conference I attended recently, I heard a firsthand account of graceful remembering. An author named Margot Starbuck told the story of her childhood and her quest for the Father-love she never had from her earthly fathers.
Margot experienced the double whammy of abandonment early in her life, having been given up for adoption as a baby and then having her stepfather succumb to alcoholism and leave the family when she was a young girl. These abandonments from the very people who were meant to reflect the parental love of God sent her on a desperate search for the true nature of God’s love, which she chronicles in her memoir, The Girl in the Orange Dress.
What struck me most when I read Margot’s story wasn’t so much the tragic nature of her memories, but what she left out.
She never shies away from the truth or the pain of what she went through, and she doesn’t excuse her father and her stepfather for their absence. But the focus in her remembering is on the way she grew from her losses and the mysterious good God brought out of them. She offers both men the kind of forgiveness and grace they don’t deserve. But then again, that’s what grace, by its very definition, is all about.
I was equally amazed when I read the funeral song David wrote for his nemesis, King Saul. David had been nothing but faithful to Saul all his life, fighting for him, defending his honor, protecting him against assassination attempts. By way of thanks, Saul tried to kill and him and then drove him out of the country.
And yet this is how David remembered Saul after his death:
How beloved and gracious were Saul and Jonathan!
They were together in life and in death. . . .
Oh, how the mighty heroes have fallen!
—2 Samuel 1:23, 25
I imagine David hadn’t forgotten all the evil Saul had inflicted on him when he was alive. But when it came to his final reckoning, David chose to remember with grace rather than bitterness.
Just as Margot did.
Surprisingly, Margot told us that her book has served as a reconciliation tool of sorts between her and her dad. Her father, the very one she wrote about abandoning her, now gives her book to just about everyone he meets.
How beloved and gracious, indeed.
I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.