High School Reunion, Part Two

Last month, Dan shared some reflections about his upcoming 45th high school reunion, wrestling with the ambivalence that so many of us feel about potentially awkward interactions and the possibility of encountering painful memories. And earlier this week, Dan’s wife, Becky Allender, wrote about her own experience of returning home for the reunion. On this week’s podcast, Dan shares his post-reunion reflections, marveling about how returning to specific faces, names, and places of our lives can offer a taste of restoration.

“We all have periods of life that are filled with a kind of darkness, or at least tinged with heartache, that we really want to escape. And oftentimes we have put many miles, and in my case many decades, between the past—Columbus, Ohio—and the life that we live.”

Dan returns to the idea to that our brains hold a topography, storing certain feelings and sensations that are not brought back to memory until they are triggered by certain faces or locations. Once those memories are brought back to the surface, though, they often offer the opportunity to find some sort of peace or restoration.

“I wonder how many things are left unsaid, undone, unaddressed, with regard to almost all the relationships in my life. There was something so satisfying in allowing my heart to be at peace with human beings whom I had some effect upon and could speak to, and I think that’s something of the sweetness about living with a level of vulnerability—we can actually put words to the role that people played in our lives, and something of the role that we’ve played in theirs. That moment where you can grieve together and honor and bless one another—I would have flown there entirely for those conversations.”

Dan shares the simple prayer that he and his wife, Becky, prayed before the trip: that they would reflect the kingdom of God and that God would bring healing and blessing to the young parts of their hearts.

“What if we have portions of our heart that have never dealt with the transition into early adolescence—7th, 8th, 9th grade? What if there are significant wounds with regard to our first encounters with the opposite sex, our first encounters with our own sexuality, dating, arousal, our peer relationships, how we came to gain a sense of who we are? […] Why wouldn’t I want beauty? Why wouldn’t I want things put well?”

After this experience, Dan says he will not need to be convinced to return for the 50th reunion. Why turn down another opportunity to grow in clarity and kindness toward our younger selves, and to help others do the same?

“Our hearts so hunger for restoration. When the sweetness of vulnerability opens up those early years, to gain a sense of peace, little compares to the kind of ‘yes’ that the spirit of God can speak to our hearts to allow that freedom, goodness, mercy, beauty to come together. […] Our lives are meant to bring, even to one another, the sweet taste of restoration.”