Do you have pictures that instantaneously conjure up a slew of memories? I’ve come across quite a few of those while packing up to move, and this one is particularly memory-flooding. It was taken in Amsterdam in the Spring of 2005. We were there because my husband was in the Army and was doing what they call “backfill” for two months in Germany. I flew over with little Will (3) and Nate (18 months). Although my husband had a total of three days off out of the seventeen we were there, we lived it up for those three days (we went to Switzerland once and the Netherlands once). While Daddy worked the boys and I saw every little town and zoo within 150 km and we were usually home in time for dinner. We were blessed to have an amazing rental car (a Mercedes, we were in Germany after all) that seven years ago had a GPS that was better than any I’ve seen here. It was a hilariously good time for me to be driving on the Autobahn, and all over Germany, and never for a second fear getting lost. Kind of sad that Nate remembers nothing and Will only remembers castles that were so old they were falling apart. But I’d do it again regardless — for me experiences that are far from home or just really out of the ordinary are emblazoned with a more searing synapse — I have so many vivid, fun memories from this trip.
Shameless bribery was the means by which I got the boys excited about our daily excursions. We went on train rides, visited parks, ate many German pretzels, but the deal was no matter what little city we went to they could each get a very small toy. They took this very seriously and tried to choose the best little car or truck or gadget they could find. One day we were in Kaiserslautern looking around, and it began to rain. I told Dub that we might have to skip the daily toy and head to the car. He was more than a little disappointed.
“Just ask someone where the toy store is,” he pleaded.
“I can’t, Dub, I don’t speak German.”
“But, Mommy,” he said, “They all speak English.”
And of course, my perceptive little man was absolutely right. I did end up asking about and finding a toy store before heading to the car.
It was interesting that everyone did speak English and yet many of them were convinced that I was German. I don’t know if it was the double stroller I tooled around with, that I look very German, that my sons look German, that I wasn’t in particularly touristy areas, but there seemed to be total but polite shock when I uttered the one German phrase I had mastered, “Ich spreche kein Deutsch.”
Of course, that’s all background for the photo above because this was taken a long way from Germany in a land where I felt very much at home for different reasons. You may know that Amsterdam is chock full of tall people! I mean I was looking eye to eye with most of the women I passed on the street. I could not believe it. I fit right in! But then a young man came up to me near the flower market where the boys wanted to buy lollipops made from pot, and things got complicated. This young man had a quizzical expression and a map. He started asking me questions and pointing, and I got quite discombobulated. I didn’t know the Dutch phrase I needed to use in such encounters, instead I stammered and spit out an idiotic and embarrassing, “No Deutsch.” My husband has laughed about this for seven years now. “No Deutsch” is kind of short-hand for an embarrassingly, speechless moment.
How wonderful to have pictures and phrases that capture memories in such a concrete way. Our experiences have texture and meaning which are intertwined with the visual images and language that describe them. Do you think this is true for faith? I do. I think it’s important to read the Bible with a visual in mind. Think about Isaiah who said, “Send me!” (Isaiah 6). Do you have a visual for that? I do. How about when Jesus fried up the fish for Peter who had denied him three times? Do have a visual for that? Peter betrayed Jesus. Jesus even told Peter he would betray Him, and then after a long night of fruitless labor, Jesus made Peter breakfast (John 21). We should take the time to really think about the words and imagine what it was like. If we don’t, we miss the redemption that this breakfast brought to Peter.
C.S. Lewis said that the imagination is the organ of meaning. May we utilize this organ to visualize the events we study in God’s Word.