Is there more to your memories?

I’ve often thought about my earliest memory. The more I think about it, the more I keep coming back to a specific moment. The thing is, however, that there was nothing especially interesting about this moment. If I’m being honest, as I was considering this memory I didn’t especially want it to be my first. It wasn’t falling off a bicycle (though I do remember that well), breaking a limb, witnessing the death of a family member, or anything even remotely close to that.

As I’ve considered my earliest memory, I’ve often told myself, “That can’t be it. There has to be something earlier that has greater significance.” But as hard as I’ve tried, I can’t come up with anything. So I started wondering about this memory. And then it became very clear. This event was more monumental than I thought.

I was sitting on a piano.

Not sitting at the piano playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” but sitting on the piano. Not on the piano bench, but on the piano itself. My parents hated me doing it. I can still hear them saying something to the effect of, “That piano isn’t furniture!” and “Get off the piano!” I don’t know what it was, but I just liked to sit there. And this particular day, that’s exactly what my toddler-sized self was doing. I was sitting there on that Wurlitzer Spinet piano. Doing nothing. Okay, I may have been watching television, but in essence, doing nothing.

I didn’t fall off the piano. I didn’t slam my fingers in the piano lid. I was just sitting there. While I remember this vividly, there are a few specific things I remember about it. I was wearing a t-shirt (probably of the He-Man variety) and my underwear (also probably of the He-Man variety). I want to think that it was a Saturday morning, but that’s just a guess, based on my “attire.”

The upright piano was against the wall directly to the left as you entered our living room, and I remember that I was sitting on the edge, just past the highest note (which, for as long as I can ever remember, was dreadfully out of tune). For some reason, I remember telling myself that day that I wanted to remember that moment for the rest of my life. At the time, it was nothing more than an attempt to see how long I could actually remember something that I intentionally set out to. Sort of like a personal challenge to myself. At the time I couldn’t have been more than about 5 years old. Little did I know that I’d now be 35 years old, still remembering it vividly.

This piano had great significance. It was the piano on which my dad learned how to play when he was young. My grandfather bought it in 1959, and it sat originally in my grandparents’ home in Durham, NC. The piano came to our town of Lumberton when my parents bought a house there back in the late 70s. I’m sure, even though I don’t remember it, that my brother, my sister and I would occasionally hammer out an incomprehensible cluster of notes at an extreme volume (fortissimo, for you musicians), only to have my mom tell me how beautiful it sounded. I believe this is true because I am a father now, and I have had a piano in my living room (although not the same one), and three children who have done this regularly.

It was the piano I would one day use as I practiced during my brief stint with piano lessons.

It was the piano I used to practice a song I wrote called “Recycle Today” when I was in elementary school.

Fast-forward a few decades and music is now a huge part of my life. I encounter music on a daily basis and on a deep level. I smack my steering wheel to the rhythm of the turn signal. I whistle constantly. I can even “wodel,” which I’ve coined as the word to represent whistling and yodeling at the same time. I’m “making music” everywhere I go. My wife regularly affirms that I literally cannot sit still, and even my kids are beginning to do ordinary things through the lens of music.

I don’t remember anything else about sitting on the piano, but as I look back, I realize that before I even knew what to do with it, God had music right next to me, or in this case, right under me. Music would eventually become a part of who I would become as a person. It would weave its way through my life in different ways and lead me down several different paths, some incredibly awesome, and some borderline destructive. Music led me on a journey that would result in me meeting my wife, in what can only be described as the unlikeliest of circumstances.

In a climactic point of my life, music would be the initial medium that God would use to send me to the mountains of Jamaica in 2006, where I met my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Have you ever considered connecting your own memories to the presence of God in your life? I believe there is a reason that your earliest memories are there. They can seem inconsequential on the surface, but maybe if we dig a little, we’ll see something more. I believe our entire lives are connected as a series of events. I can trace back my entire life to sitting on that piano. What’s more, I believe that had the place I sat those mornings been different, perhaps even the place I sit at this moment would be different.

I believe that if we examine our lives through the lens of God’s transcendence of time, we can develop a first-hand, iron clad case for a providential Creator who has set in motion a series of events leading up to this very point — right now.

It is my prayer that God would stir within you a desire to search your own past for evidence of His orchestration of your life.

My parents don’t have that piano anymore. They kept it up until a few years ago when they moved across town and didn’t particularly need or want to take it with them. About a year ago, they gave it to a friend, in an effort for his young daughter to be able to use it.

I’m not advocating climbing on furniture (especially that which also happens to be an instrument — parents, you’re welcome), but I like to think that someday, either that little girl or another kid will occupy the corner of that piano. I hope he or she remembers that moment. And I hope it leads to great things. Even if one day years from now it’s destroyed and used as firewood somewhere, that piano will always house my first memory, and as long as I am of sound mind, I’ll be able to trace my life back to that moment.

I pass by the house where I grew up from time to time. Maybe one day I’ll go back and visit. People do that, right? Just show up at someone’s house and say you lived there as a child and you’d like to come in and reminisce about old times? Once I’m in (if they let me in), maybe I’ll stand up against the wall where the piano once stood. Just to the left as you walk into the living room. I’ll gaze in the direction of where the television used to rest, and in the living room of another family who occupies that home, I’ll simply say “thank you, Jesus.”

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. — Hebrews 13:8 (NIV)