rediscovering christianity's forgotten, organic ways amidst the modern industrial religious machine

The Power of Nostalgia

By Byron Shooner

As I try to think through the “how” of creating disciples in my family, I was recently reminded that nostalgia does NOT equal faith. But is nostalgia counter to our efforts to grow up disciples of Jesus?

Nostalgia is that sentimental yearning for bygone experiences. Those experiences that tapped the deepest emotions in us: brotherhood, community, belonging, intimacy and joy to name a few. Many of us have intense nostalgia about our childhoods; rituals around the Christmas tree, traditions for Thanksgiving meals and the excitement of “Easter” bunnies and candy baskets. I have significant emotion wrapped up in each of these but none of them deepened my faith or grew my understanding of God’s story. In fact, my nostalgia is in most cases divorced from the Story. But knowing that, I still can’t shake the influence of the sentiment wrapped up in those memories. They have driven me well into adulthood and shaped many of my ideas on family. I just recently began to imagine how powerful it might be if that sort of influence and sentiment was fully centered on God’s story and His great love for us. I began to imagine a 20-year-old son whose deepest memories of love, belonging and intimacy were all grounded in the unfolding of God’s story within our family; the thought moves me to tears. I could almost see my sons reproducing those same connections to God’s story and His love within their families. Reprogramming the “hard wired” nostalgia that we grew up with is not a simple thing. For me, it began with a desire to bestow on my sons the understanding of God’s love for them. Through prayer, that desire (mission) has become the foundation of what we do. And from this foundation, I was moved to soften my heart and consider a new way and to seek out and learn from others who had brought Spirit minded leadership and creativity into their families. Submitting myself to the teaching and wisdom of other fathers (many younger than me) was the key to unleashing God’s story in our family.

Today marks the end of a very special Holy Week for me as well as a complete departure from my nostalgic memories. My wife and I have worked together to create a week long, immersive and progressive experience for our family and community. We started with one or two activities last year and this year built on what worked. We used symbols, concrete objects, and hands on learning and physical illustrations to bring the story of Jesus’ last days to life. In community we built a cross, confessed, covered our sins in Jesus’ blood, washed feet and broke bread. We were blessed to share with other families and to benefit from their commitment and unique contributions. We were also able to share the week with grandparents who still don’t fully get what we’re all about but are nonetheless moved by the image of God unfolding in our family. I know this is just one week and that we also need to bring God’s love to life the rest of the year. But I also know that the “nostalgia” we are creating during this season may stretch deep into future generations.

So, nostalgia does not equal faith, but in our family, it will draw us into deeper communion with the King, with each other and with our friends.