How would you describe nostalgia? I don’t necessarily mean the things that stir up nostalgic feelings within you. I don’t mean the sights or sounds, the tastes or smells… I mean the feeling itself.
Here’s how real nostalgia makes me feel… It’s like this deep ache. It’s not painful, but it’s like something has gone missing. Yet, at the same time, it’s like remembering this incredible sense of joy. Pure happiness. It’s a comfort and a longing… a desperate need.
Put all that together in a blender and hit puree and you get what I think of as nostalgia.
But what causes these mixed feelings?
It could be anything, really. And it’s certainly going to be different for everyone reading this. The memories that stir up nostalgia within me won’t necessarily do the same for you. Of course they won’t… they’re my memories.
I was recently sent down an unintentional memory lane by Virginia Tech’s Baptist Collegiate Ministries director when he preached during my church’s livestream service. He was preaching on Paul’s letter to the Galatians, specifically in the section detailing the Fruit of the Spirit. His sermon was more than what distracted me with memories, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll just focus on that.
Early in his sermon, he reminded me of an old song that I used to sing as a kid that taught me the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self contro-o-ol.
Honestly, I didn’t learn that song until the summer after my junior year when I joined my youth group on a mission trip to Danville, Virginia. We participated in a week-long program called Impact: Virginia. Groups from all over the state came to help out with various work projects in the homes of people in need.
The group I was working with put a new roof on a house. When we did that too quickly, they gave us more to do to this house. We built a new staircase. We re-tiled the kitchen floor. We even helped to stabilize the house’s foundation. Obviously, we had a couple of really great contractors with us showing us what to do.
I wasn’t with my youth group at the work site. We were split up at the start of the week and placed into work groups with random members of other church groups. This way we could meet new people and forge new friendships. Something I was super comfortable with.
It was an incredible week. Our days were spent at the work sites. Our evenings were spent in large group worship times led by a quartet of college students from all over the state. It was in these worship times that I was introduced to that Fruit of the Spirit song. I was also introduced to VeggieTales. I mean… old school VeggieTales. Before they sold out and hit Netflix.
One of the college students was a sophomore from Bluefield College. In spite of our group’s being in Danville and staying on the campus of Averett College, this introduction to Bluefield College through this student leader did a whole lot to influence my decision of where to go after high school.
As I thought about that Fruit of the Spirit song and still hear it in my head, it brings up the sounds and images of people I haven’t thought of in years. It wasn’t long after that mission trip that my family left the church that had been our home my entire life.
At that point in history, my home church had experienced a substantial split among the congregation. It was messy. It got ugly.
So it wasn’t long after that trip that I stopped seeing a number of friends that I had grown up with in that church. In my mind’s eye, I can still see pictures that were taken in the days before digital cameras. Hard copies of photos that have been lost to time and several moves.
I can still see my Sunday School teacher standing with another member of the youth group posing in the parking lot before they left for the day of work at their site. I can still see another of our youth leaders throwing a frisbee in the yard in front of the dorms we were staying in. I can see my sister on the last day of the week with her Impact: Virginia t-shirt signed in black Sharpie by dozens of kids from a dozen other churches.
This is where the ache kicks in. It was 23 years ago. And there’s a part of me that wishes I could relive just a little bit of that week.
Does that mean that the good times stopped there? My family moved to another church and I was forced to grow up and there would be no more history to feel nostalgic about? Absolutely not.
That same ache can come up when I think about being tackled onto a snowy quad during my freshman year. It happens when I think about a trip to Indianapolis with a car full of my best friends. It happens whenever I think about Christmases in my grandparents’ basement.
This time, it just happened to be a song about the Fruit of the Spirit.
What makes you feel nostalgic? Let me know down in the comments!