“The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following: Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when swerving away from the rabbit, hits a pedestrian.” ~ Frank Herbert, science-fiction writer
“I am not a sentimental person.” ~ Jack Kevorkian, “Dr. Death”
“High culture is paranoid about sentiment. But human beings are intensely sentimental. ~ Thomas Kinkade, artist
Humans are sentimental. However, I believe that how one defines being sentimental—and exhibits sentimentality in deed—determines whether one views being sentimental as a destructive or constructive emotional response. My intentions within this writing are to:
- Examine how being sentimental is capable of being both destructive and constructive
- Elaborate on how I view and apply sentimentality in my life (focusing on the constructive)
- Consider how aspects of sentimentality may function in the process of Christian sanctification
Therefore, as a starting point, I think it is appropriate to establish definitions of key terms that will be used throughout my writing. Below are relevant definitions that I found for sentiment and sentimental from dictionary.com:
- exhibition or manifestation of feeling or sensibility, or appeal to the tender emotions, in literature, art, or music
- a thought influenced or proceeding from feeling or emotion
- the thought or feeling intended to be conveyed by words, acts, or gestures as distinguished from the words, acts, or gestures themselves
- expressive of or appealing to sentiment, especially the tender emotions and feelings, as love, pity, or nostalgia: a sentimental song
- pertaining to or dependent on sentiment: we kept the old photograph for purely sentimental reasons
- weakly emotional; mawkishly susceptible or tender: the sentimental Victorians
Please note that a definition for sentimentality is not provided because the definitions that I found for the word simply suggest that it is exhibiting sentiment.
With fundamental definitions for key terms established, let us look further into the two polar perspectives of being sentimental.
EXAMINING WHAT IT IS TO BE SENTIMENTAL: TWO POLAR PERSPECTIVES
The following two sub-sections discuss the destructive (negative) and constructive (positive) perspectives of being sentimental. Though, it is necessary to provide some clarification about the rationale for these sub-sections before proceeding…
When posting on a public forum, one is blind to the backgrounds and recent experiences of those who constitute the reader audience. Without knowing my audience, I think it is necessary in this instance to provide a cautionary disclaimer about the following sub-section (“When sentimentality is destructive”). My rationale for discussing sentimentality in a destructive context is not to vilify those who find themselves currently engaging in such behavior. Personally, it is difficult for me to believe that any of us are consistently being sentimental in a healthy manner. While a later section in this writing focuses on how I exhibit sentimentality constructively, I can assure readers of this post that I have had my moments of exhibiting destructive sentimentality as well. As human beings, we err. It’s okay—we cannot avoid it, but can only try to do it less often 🙂
That being said, I do believe it is necessary to provide both perspectives of being sentimental. First, it establishes the boundaries (the range and scope) of what I envision as being sentimental. Second, if someone who reads this upcoming sub-section is currently battling a tendency to engage in destructive sentimentality, my hope is that it helps them see ways to change course for their betterment. In my own life, understanding areas where I may be failing others or myself helps me grow more into the individual that I desire to be. For me, that is being a better ambassador for Christ. And many times, I reach such understanding by gleaning wisdom from 1) scripture and 2) the insights of others that are derived from scriptural Truth.
Therefore, if you are knowingly battling destructive sentimentality, I hope that you read the following sub-section—not as condemnation, but rather an encouragement to gain a deeper understanding of where you may currently find yourself situated. And if you are capable of being destructively sentimental, then you are just as capable of being constructively sentimental 🙂
As one progresses through this writing, it will become apparent that I strongly value sentimentality, and encourage it within a healthy, constructive context. Moreover, I value people who are in touch with their emotions, and reflect on them. I am one such person, otherwise, I would be a hypocrite 😛
So, with the necessary clarification having now been supplied, let us discuss how being sentimental can be destructive.
When sentimentality is destructive. Consider the meaning behind the below quote:
“The difference between sentiment and being sentimental is the following: Sentiment is when a driver swerves out of the way to avoid hitting a rabbit on the road. Being sentimental is when the same driver, when swerving away from the rabbit, hits a pedestrian.” ~ Frank Herbert
Sentiment, to Herbert, appears to be equivalent to emotional concern and consideration. Likewise, unbridled emotional response without rational assessment of a situation is what I believe Herbert refers to as “being sentimental.” Such sentimentality, where rational thinking is ignored, can be exhibited when someone embraces feelings of hurt, loss, and sadness related to a negative past experience and projects them in similar future situations. He or she will justify avoidance of similar future situations by listening to these negative emotional responses. Subsequently, what may actually be a good situation can be perceived as a bad one.
In Herbert’s quote, he speaks to the irrational decision of hitting a pedestrian to avoid a rabbit. When allowing unbridled emotion to control actions, one’s vision is narrowed as if a horse with blinders. It isn’t that anyone would want to hit the pedestrian. Rather, all that person sees is the rabbit. That is what happens when individuals hold onto the negativity of a past failure, and carry it forward with them into their future decisions. And—using Herbert’s quote as an analogy—it isn’t just the pedestrian that gets hurt, but the driver too. Who would want to live with hitting a pedestrian?
Unless a sociopath, no one would want to hit a pedestrian—he or she was only guilty of seeing through the blinders of fear. And, unfortunately, when kind and loving people create a “hit the pedestrian” moment, they will most assuredly battle a feeling of guilt that will try to accompany their fear; feeling as though they are getting further and further entrenched in quicksand. In such circumstances, forgiveness can serve as a healing salve.
Something that I believe many people miss when it comes to forgiving others is that the behavior helps both the one forgiving and the one who grants forgiveness. It permits the person granting forgiveness to move on with his or her own life; providing closure to a painful past and allowing him or her to carry a sense of hope into the future. Furthermore, sometimes the person who is forgiving and needs forgiveness is one in the same. We sometimes need to forgive ourselves for failures experienced in our past, so that we can live a life full of faith, hope, and love. When we don’t, that is when sentimentality can become destructive.
Conversely, sentimentality can also be constructive.
When sentimentality is constructive. Now let’s consider Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s quote:
“I am not a sentimental person.”
Dr. Kevorkian was an advocate for assisted suicide—and an accomplice in it—earning the name “Dr. Death.” He helped hundreds of people end their lives. Some may claim that he was exhibiting compassion towards those in pain. I would argue that his secular worldview and lack of sentimentality made it easy for him to serve as their executioner. He wasn’t being compassionate; rather, he was rationalizing death as a better alternative than pain for people who had given up hope. Emotion didn’t play a part—its absence did. And, it would not surprise me if there were implications relating to monetary gain.
We all have emotions, and we need to embrace healthy emotions. Healthy emotions, such as love and compassion, are essential for maintaining strong relationships—especially for Christians. Does forgiveness make sense if one doesn’t feel anything? Is it logical to be compassionate to others if we don’t see anything following this life? Wouldn’t every decision that we make be based on how it benefited us, and supplied us with a more comfortable existence? Wouldn’t we be grudge holders? Would we be able to understand love, because how could we even believe in the concept? It wouldn’t be logical for us to be vulnerable:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable. ~ C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
I believe that anyone with an artistic side will, at some level, be sentimental. Sentimentality allows us to embrace the beauty of the world. It can feed optimism when sentimentality imbues feelings of faith, love, and hope. In such contexts, sentimentality allows us to see the best in us and in others. It can encourage us to overcome failure, and still believe in something “good.”
So, now that destructive and constructive sentimentality has been discussed, the two sections that follow will share how I attempt to apply (constructive) sentimentality in my own life. The first section will provide a description of how I envision sentimentality in my life, while the second section shares background on some objects possessing personal (constructive) sentimentality. Then, the final section of this writing (“Concluding Thoughts”) will transition into how I perceive sentimentality to be relative to an important part—but only a part—of the sanctification process.
HOW I AM SENTIMENTAL
I’m an emotional person, and if there was a scale for sentimentality—with zero being absent of sentimentality and ten being entirely sentimental—I would probably place myself as a seven. Personally, I think it is hard to be a practicing Christian and not exhibit some level of sentimentality.
But maybe my definition of sentimentality is a bit more contextualized than the definitions provided earlier. For me, I consider sentimentality to serve as a type of nostalgic encouragement; providing me with a sense of hope during those moments of reflection—even those that carry an element of sadness with them.
Those things that I possess that have sentimental value to me, do so for specific reasons. All of my reasons for being sentimental I ultimately view as constructive. Though, I don’t necessarily see the value in being sentimental towards most objects, because objects are just that—they are objects…things. Hoarders exhibit such overblown characteristics of sentimentality. I only find objects to be sentimental if they tie into a key moment or relationship in my life—or, more often, a combination of both.
A number of objects that possess sentimental value to me are shown in the picture/photo that accompanies this post. Each object has a story and conveys something specific to me. While a majority of these objects have a nostalgic meaning associated with it, there exists more than nostalgia alone. Otherwise, I would say that these objects have nostalgic value and not sentimental value. For me, objects that have sentimental value represent meaningful moments—critical moments in what I consider life-defining stories that piece together the larger, comprehensive story of my being.
SOME OBJECTS THAT POSSESS SENTIMENTALITY
To help clarify my perspective on sentimentality, this section provides examples of objects that have sentimental personal meaning. I first discuss those objects that have been present in my life for a longer duration, with more recent objects following. The only exception is the last object discussed, my cross necklace, which has been done for a specific reason. While I do not consider what I share to fully encompass my sentimentality, I believe that these examples allow for a better understanding of what I perceive as exhibiting sentimentality in a healthy manner (though, if I didn’t think it a healthy practice, I wouldn’t do it—duh!).
Digger the Dog. When I was maybe twelve or thirteen—around the time I began mowing the lawn at home—I noticed something protruding slightly from the ground near the house. It was a product tag. As I tried to pull it up, I realized that it was connected to something. I had no idea what it could be—the lawn had fully grown over it. Roots were firmly entrenched in the dirt above it. It must have been buried for some time. With a bit of effort, I dug the object out. It was a stuffed toy—a dog that had been buried in our front lawn.
There was something familiar about the toy, so I took it into the house and asked my mother about it. She told me it was one of my first toys: Digger the Dog. She said it was one of my favorite toys, and I used to rub its ears with my finger and thumb as I did one of our real dogs, Princess. Then, one day, Digger was gone.
I had (…okay, have) an extremely strong imagination, and this was especially true about me as a child. Having named my toy “Digger the Dog,” it would not surprise me if my toddler self was the guilty party in its disappearance. I assume that I was pretending that it was Digger who was doing the digging, and for some reason I buried Digger afterwards. Or, it could have been an act of vindictive retaliation from my brother, Patrick. Those are my best guesses.
What is weird is that I never went back for Digger, and I eventually forgot about him. I would think the loss of a favorite toy for a toddler would be memorable. Maybe it was so traumatic, I chose to forget it. Or maybe I was just too young. My memories from that age are few.
Digger was pretty beat up. New England seasons are a bit volatile, and Digger endured eight to nine years of nature’s fury. I asked my mother to stitch him up. Then I washed my doggy friend through the washing machine numerous times. It would have made sense to throw Digger away, but I felt a need to keep him. I’m glad that I did.
It gets harder to reflect on my early years as I continue to age and move further away from them, but I believe that I originally kept Digger out of an obligation of childhood friendship. When I approached my mother about Digger, with her sharing with me the relationship that I had with him during my “wee lad” years, came a realization. Digger was probably my first friend. Maybe the relationship was one-sided and all in my head as a wee lad—the power of a child’s imagination—but it just felt wrong to abandon him again. Since finding Digger, he has been my constant companion. He went with me to college in Virginia and graduate school in OH. He was with me when I moved to GA, and is still with me today.
Digger is my buddy, my friend. And I will never abandon my true friends (though, to instill faith in others regarding my sanity, I realize that Digger is an imaginary one)—circumstances are inconsequential. If a friend—regardless of how much time has passed since last hearing from them (or having buried them)—reaches out to me (whether it be by hand or product tag), I would respond. And I would do what I can to be available for them, because I believe that:
A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity
(Proverbs 17:17, NASB)
Over the years, Digger’s meaning has become more dynamic and complex for me. Whenever I look over at Digger, chillin’ on top of the bookshelf at the foot of my bed, he reminds me of something that I believe is extremely important to acknowledge: that which is lost is not necessarily lost forever. He is a reminder to stay hopeful when a relationship meaningful to me is lost—to have faith in restoration.
And maybe I was the person that buried Digger. Yet, he has been resurrected—restored—and is with me now. Jesus was killed by our sin, died, and was buried. Yet, He has been resurrected—restored to an eternal glory—being with us now. And as silly as it may seem, Digger is a personal reminder of the salvation story. There are people that are missing in our life—whether forgotten or not yet known—that we miss until we find them. Though, sometimes, we don’t know we’re missing them. I believe this is the case for those who have not yet come to know Jesus…
Maybe that is why I have Digger looking down at my bed from his perch on the bookshelf, like a guardian angel (or guard dog) protecting me while I sleep…
The Golden Soccer Ball. Growing up, I played soccer year-round. While I was fortunate to play on a number of dominant teams over the years, my first year playing on a traveling team was not one of those experiences.
It was a U10 soccer team. Entering our last game of the season, we had yet to win. Our season finale was against an undefeated team from Triton. Not only was our final opponent undefeated, they were consistently winning in dominant fashion (e.g. 7-0 and 8-0 blowouts). At this time in my soccer career, I still had my baby fat, and didn’t necessarily like to run all that much. Not coincidentally, I had volunteered to be our team’s goalie at the beginning of the season. It was a good decision, given that my team was awful. I was always active during games, protecting our net from an onslaught of opponents’ shots. There was a reason we hadn’t won—our defense was quite offensive…
With respect to the level of our competition and my age at the time, I probably played the best game of my life against Triton. It was wet and muddy. Triton was on our side of the field for the entire game. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that I may have made 45 saves—many spectacular. To help illustrate Triton’s dominance, consider that our team had three shots on their goal over the course of the game. Yet, somehow, with the wet conditions, we were able to score a couple goals (their goalie had trouble with the conditions). I only gave up one. We ruined their undefeated season, ending our season positively. After the game came a personally surreal moment.
As would be expected, my teammates’ parents made a point to congratulate me on what many of them claimed to be a superhuman performance (remember, these are parents that had to watch our entire, dreadful season). What I never would have expected, however, was that every parent from Triton who had made the trip to Gloucester made a point to congratulate me as well. And I could see how proud my father was of my performance.
My father is a critical man—always emphasizing responsibility and obligation—so I’ve never waited for him to bestow upon me words of affirmation. He follows an old school, blue collar, fishing town code. He doesn’t believe that it is appropriate to compliment someone for doing their job. It’s just doing what they should do. And to me at that time, a goalie’s job was to keep the other team from scoring. Following the game, I was actually still angry about the one goal I surrendered; though, ecstatic about beating a formerly undefeated team in our season finale. My father couldn’t stop talking about the game…
He told me that he saw something special in me that day. It was the first time that my father said anything to me about being special. Maybe this seems like nothing to the typical millennial, whose parents have been telling them that they can do anything since they were born. My father was not, is not, and will never be, one of those parents.
After mingling with teammates at Friendly’s restaurant for a season-ending ice cream, my father took me to Palazola’s Sporting Goods. He said that “it only makes sense that the golden goalie should have a golden soccer ball.” And that is what he bought me. It wasn’t the world’s highest quality ball—my father never played soccer and didn’t know how to differentiate the quality between soccer balls (nor did I at nine years old)—but I loved it.
I trained all the time with that ball, bouncing it off a rock in our front yard; working on my goalkeeping technique. It lasted for years (which is a miracle when it comes to me and soccer balls), and I kept it around for a long time even after it was unable to stay inflated. It reminded me of a time where my father wasn’t hiding behind the responsibility of being a parent, but of a moment where he showed me his love and approval openly.
This event probably led to my greater involvement with sports as I got older.
To me, such moments should be cherished and remembered. Holding onto the many more moments of criticism serves no value. It seems fitting that the game was played in the rain…
When dark clouds loom overhead, I always tend to look for the rays of light that are bound to break through…
Written Correspondence. When I was sixteen—and on vacation in VA—my best friend Jeremy (who often went on vacation with my family) and I made friends with a couple girls from PA. One of these girls stayed in touch with me afterwards. This was before email was a common means of communication, so we became pen pals and would write to one another. Julie would eventually go to prom with me. And even after all these years, we are still friends.
I have kept every card and letter that I have received from friends and loved ones, starting around the time that Julie and I began writing letters to one another.
There is always a special feeling that accompanies the receipt of a personalized card or letter in the mail. With the many forms of instant communication available to us now, I probably place even greater value on written correspondence. Typically, the more personalized the correspondence and closer the relationship, the more it’s cherished.
I especially appreciate correspondence that I receive that isn’t connected to a holiday or an event. It means that someone was thinking of me when there was no “special occasion” to do so.
And yes, sometimes such correspondence hasn’t been positively messaged. While it has been infrequent, sometimes a friend or loved one writes me something confronting or hurtful (sometimes these are one in the same…other times, they are not). But in those instances, the fact that the person chose to communicate at all usually helps address conflicts between them and I; creating an open—sometimes emotional—forum for us to resolve issues. So, while the initial letter may have been painful to receive, I can look back at it now and see how that person and I overcame our relational struggles; ultimately, remembering the long-term positive outcome rather than that short-term conflict.
Nowadays, I will usually do one of two things when sending a personal letter. I will write two copies of the letter—one in cursive, and the other hand-printed—or, I will provide a hand-written, cursive version accompanied by a laser-printed copy. Most people find my cursive beautiful, but difficult to read. Providing the two copies, however, is meant to communicate more than just the words that I wrote…
It communicates that I care enough about the person to share with them both beauty and substance—that I want them to “see” the depth of the love that I have for them, and “hear” what I wrote. That I hope that they make an effort to understand what is being written. And I understand that sometimes people may come at a philosophical impasse on a particular issue—that they’ll disagree—but isn’t that life? It is so essential to know how to “agree to disagree,” but love others regardless. Especially as a Christian (for instance, there are many people in my life that think I’m crazy for having faith). And to share something with a friend in a letter is my way of sharing my heart when I cannot do so in person. Because, to me, it is always better to share one’s heart in person.
In recent years, I have also begun to keep and catalog personal emails from close friends and loved ones. With so many people in my life physically distant from me, sometimes—given timing or access—an email is the only means to communicate. To me, such emails serve as extended relatives of the letters that I’ve received in the past.
Looking back at correspondence that I’ve received in the past helps me remember both the good times and bad times that I have had with close friends and loved ones. It helps me remember them in totality, rather than focusing on either one good moment or bad moment. Sometimes I’ll feel sad after reading some of these communications, but I still value them. And if I’m not in a good place with someone, I can always read chains of letters with others where bad situations improved. It serves to remind me that things often get better with those you love if they love you too. So, I leave my heart open to those people; praying for them, and hoping that a genuine relationship can be established. Maybe it is an extension of my “crazy faith.” But usually, when mutual care concern for one another is present, circumstances improve. And I can’t stop caring for those that I allow to access my heart in a deep-seeded manner…
If the worst case situation ultimately occurs (permanently lost relationship), at least I have the letters to remember what influence they’ve had upon my life (all circumstances—even bad ones—have long-term growth opportunities). And I make every effort to remember such loved ones with genuine love, and a thankfulness for having been blessed to have once had them a part of my life.
Captain’s Armband (Belgium Trip). When I was eighteen, I was invited to travel to Belgium for an International soccer tournament. My team represented New England. Before heading out to Belgium for the tournament, our team met up two times in NH for practices. I was an older player on our team, having just graduated from high school.
My rationale for participating in the tournament was to get some experience being away from home. In the fall, I would be starting my freshman year at James Madison University—an eleven hour drive from home. This would be my first time completely away from family. What better way to establish some independence than to head off to a country on the other side of the Atlantic, right?
While I was apprehensive about traveling to another country with people I had only met a couple times, I saw this as an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. And it’s often been those uncomfortable opportunities that ultimately are 1) the most rewarding and 2) allow for personal growth. This opportunity would turn out to be such a situation.
During my senior year at GHS, I had been named a captain by my soccer coach and received conference all-star recognition. While both titles were great honors, my high school team was young (mostly sophomores and freshman), and we weren’t competitive in our conference. While normally a forward or a midfielder, I was asked by my coach to play sweeper—his rationale was my presence on the back line would help keep the scores closer. There were a number of egos on the team, and it was frustrating to give your heart and soul each game; trying to be a good example for the younger players–making personal sacrifices–while those players were being disrespectful to the coach, captains, and upperclassmen…and, generally, playing selfishly.
My high school soccer coach, Ricci Jeffrie, tried to develop our skills and instill discipline. Yet, after my senior year he was replaced (thank you small town politics). Coach Jeffrie had played midfield for his nation’s (Trinidad & Tobago) national team. He was a great teacher of the game. He also had great character. We were fortunate to have him. And yet, he only was afforded two years as our coach. Fortunately, I was able to play on his team those two years. That soccer season left a sour taste in my mouth…
And while my reasons for playing in this tournament were focused on preparing me for my time away at JMU, it also served to renew my belief in the ability for team sports to build community.
Before our flight to Belgium, the team voted for captain. And to my surprise, my teammates voted me captain unanimously. While being the captain of my HS team was a great honor, being named captain by peers after only a couple practices was special. It meant a lot to me. Being a unanimous vote conveyed to me that others saw qualities in me that were befitting a captain. It communicated to me that I had earned the trust and respect of my peers in a short time. There were no politics—there hadn’t been enough time to develop political agendas before our trip 😛
When we made it to Europe, I was asked to take on an additional responsibility outside of team captain—group chaperon. We were short on chaperons. Since I was eighteen—though at my current age I have difficulty accepting that I was an adult—I was able to chaperon one of our breakout groups while touring various cities in Belgium. During our week in Belgium, we visited Antwerp, Brussels, and Bruges. We also visited a water park (Waterloo) and a WWII concentration camp: Fort Breedonk. This was BC (before cell phones as commonplace), so it was important that we met up at our predetermined check points at the times agreed upon with our team leaders.
Overall, the tour experience was good. All three cities we visited were unique. Bruges was probably my favorite; enjoying a canal tour through a city whose building codes required buildings to adhere to styles from the 1600s. It is commonly referred to as the Venice of the North. We were warned about heavy pick-pocketing in Brussels, but I actually was robbed while we were at Waterloo on the rides (someone broke into my locker). Fort Breedonk left me with the chills—you could feel the death in the air as you walked through the fort’s tunnels.
The games were fun, but physically demanding. Our games were played during the hottest week Belgium had experienced in three years! The weather was in the mid-to-high 90s every day! I was the team’s central midfielder, and didn’t have a backup. There were a few times I actually fell after kicking the ball due to calf cramps—but I survived. And I played well. Against the best team in the tournament I had a beautiful goal from outside the 18 meter box—a knuckling shot into the lower left corner of the goal. I consider it the most beautiful goal that I’ve ever scored.
After the trip, I kept my captain’s armband as a reminder of the experience. It brings back the fun of traveling with guys I had just met, and playing against strong competition in an unfamiliar environment. Considering that I had so many doubts about the trip, it serves as an encouragement for me to take on worthwhile challenges. Sometimes I think of what I’d have missed if I hadn’t gone on that trip. My trip to Belgium was such a confidence builder right before departing for college.
“Bloody Good Harbor” Painting. Years back, my sister Stephanie painted a landscape of my favorite place: Good Harbor Beach. It took years for me to convince her to paint it. She—being an artist with a fine arts degree—found the painting, by its nature, to be cliché. The painting hangs in front of my office desk in my Graduate Assistant office.
The painting carries layers of meaning (pun intended, but true) for me. First, it is a physical representation of the love my sister has for me. Anyone that knows Stephanie, knows that she is extremely thoughtful. When painting something for a loved one, the time and care that she invests is insane. As an example, one need look no further than my Good Harbor painting. I had asked her to imitate the style of my favorite artist, Edward Hopper. If you know Hopper’s work, you can see the similarities for yourself below:
Her painting is a good representation of Hopper’s style; particularly, the house on the cliff. The painting also serves as a reminder of a location that has a special place in my heart. When I was living in Gloucester, I would often go to Good Harbor beach in the evening—especially in the fall. I would walk along the beach, my feet sinking ankle-deep into the sand, and reflect on my life. In high school, I would often battle my emotions. On the outside, I was perceived by others as put together, but internally, I was often struggling emotionally. On a brisk fall evening…the caressing ocean breeze with its salty aroma…the squawking of seagulls in the distance as the waves crashed on the beach…those walks centered me.
I would often have conversations with God while walking up and down Good Harbor beach on such evenings. If I felt like crying, I would cry. If I felt like shouting, I would shout. My experiences were always genuine.
In stressful times—which is why the painting is located in my office—I can look up at it from my desk and imagine myself back at Good Harbor beach, walking on a brisk fall eve. And I can feel the love my sister put into painting it for me.
And home is never too far away when feeling loved.
Grandpa Daisy’s Bowling Shirts. In the winter of 2014, Grandma Daisy passed away. She was the last of my grandparents. My other grandmother, Nana Rich, passed away in the fall of 2013.
Grandpa Daisy passed away when I was four. I remember seeing the ambulance take him away, and though I was young, I knew that I wasn’t going to see him again. Surprisingly, though I was still extremely young, I have memories from that time. My grandfather liked to put me on his shoulders. He had this large train set in the basement of which I was enamored. I remember feeling loved whenever I was in the presence of my grandpa.
He was the only grandfather that I had an opportunity to know, as my paternal grandfather passed away when my father was only fifteen.
When Grandma Daisy passed away, I was there. I saw her last breath. It was hard, seeing the life pass out of my grandmother. She was the linchpin for that side of my family. My mother and her brother, my Uncle Mike, began fighting almost immediately after my grandmother’s death. The Daisy side of my family could be best described as “the side of the family most likely to be found on Jerry Springer.” It’s probably why my mother is typically capable of staying even-keeled when dealing with everyday craziness—she’s had a lot of practice.
My grandmother was a pack rat. While cleaning out the house (it has since been sold), a box full of my grandfather’s old bowling shirts were found. My grandfather was an excellent bowler, and played in leagues regularly. He was often his team’s captain. My mother sent them to me. Most of the shirts fit me perfectly:
Coincidentally, during this past year, I taught a couple bowling classes. On occasion, I would wear one of my grandfather’s bowling shirts to class. I felt as though it was a chance to share something with him—something for which he had a passion. One of these shirts (the brown one in the post’s intro photo) was one that I had seen him wear in an old photo. It is probably my favorite for that reason.
In my grandmother’s obituary, there is a story regarding one of her last ER visits:
In January 2014, about a month before her passing, Stella was rushed to the emergency room in respiratory distress and on death’s doorstep. It was at that time that she said she received a visit from her older brother Frank, who announced, “I’ve come to get you, Stella, it’s your time.”
“Where’s Andy?” she demanded.
“Andy is busy, and couldn’t make it, so they sent me in his place,” said Frank.
Stella said she told him, “I’ll wait for Andy.”
Even after 31 years, she still loved my grandfather. That is love—true biblical love. He loved her, and she never forgot that love; loving him until her last day in this life. That is the type of love I cherish.
My grandfather lived a hard life. He supported his children. He loved his wife. I wish I had been given more time to get to know him on a personal level. There is so much I wish I could ask him now that I am (arguably) an adult.
I’m appreciative to have something of his to remember him by.
Cross Necklace. Since I was in my late teens, I wanted a nice cross necklace. Not something big and flashy, nor something small and decorative. I was looking for a cross of a specific size, with a simple design. The problem was that most crosses with a simple design are either the size of my hand or, conversely, the size of my finger nail. It took ten years for me to find a cross necklace that aligned with what I sought:
The cross is made of tungsten carbide—it’s heavy for its size. I find its weight symbolic—the weight and gravity of what the cross represents: Christ’s sacrifice. Christians are told to take up the cross daily (Luke 9:23). I wear mine every day. But if it only serves as a visual identifier of my faith, then my necklace has no real value or meaning.
Rather, when I wear my cross, it reminds me of my professed faith. Nothing frustrates me more than hypocrisy—especially my own. To wear the cross on my neck reminds me to take up the cross in my actions. It reminds me to help others carry their burdens. It reminds me that nothing I do can earn what was sacrificed upon that cross—encouraging me to serve others with humility. And for whatever reason, when I am battling negative self-talk, slowly trying to convince myself to engage in various sinful behaviors, I can feel the cross hanging on my neck; swaying across my chest. I may not have noticed that I was wearing my necklace all day, but if I start self-talking negatively—like clockwork, I become extremely cognizant that I’m wearing the cross. Ultimately, it reminds me of WHY I wear it in the first place…
That my actions should please Him and bring Him glory.
That I am His ambassador.
Whenever I take the Myers-Briggs personality test, I almost always have my results come in as either an ENFJ or an ENFP. So, it isn’t a stretch to understand why I believe that it is a good thing to possess some level of sentimentality. By my nature, I am someone who is intuitive and emotional. The risk for me and for others is when we allow sentimentality to affect our discernment. We must be able to make decisions with both our heart and our head. And as a Christian, I truly believe that it is a good thing to have our hearts lead us, but only if our hearts are moved by love—a love that is in accordance with God’s Word. No wonder we are cautioned that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9; NASB)” If our heart is being led by lust, fear, anger, guilt, etc…we should be wary to act on their behalf. With a sound mind set upon Christ, we should not give these feelings strength. Rather, we should lean on our feelings of faith, hope, and love. And we should always make sure that while embracing these feelings, we are acting in a manner that aligns with scripture. Consider the following excerpt from C.S. Lewis’ book, The Weight of Glory:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” ~ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
How can one not be sentimental to some degree when you realize that we all live in the presence of immortal souls? For this reason, I don’t apologize for being sentimental. Especially when my sentimentality involves cherished relationships, or moments that force me to grow more into Christ’s image. Sentimentality that comes from a constructive mindset—A Christ-oriented mindset—helps me love other immortal souls better. And the cross that I wear across my neck helps me stay in a Christ-oriented mindset.
Now, please do not misinterpret what I say to mean that the cross necklace which I wear around my neck has special powers—it doesn’t. Any supernatural power bestowed upon me would be from God’s son, who hung on a cross, and His gift of the Holy Spirit. Rather, my cross necklace is a reminder of my profession of faith and serves as a visual proclamation of my belief. My actions, however, are to be a confirmation of that belief to others. My deeds should bear fruit.
Jesus is referred to as Logos incarnate: the living Word (John 1:1). He is the perfect representation of a loving heart and sound mind. No wonder scripture—all of which points to Christ—encourages us to live with both the love of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:14) and a mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). For belief is not something that manifests solely from an emotional or intellectual realm. Our hearts must be tender and loving, but intellect must support that love with biblical (not worldly) wisdom. Our hearts, when focused on Christ, encourage us to love when we can otherwise justify a more selfish path. Our minds, when focused on Christ, encourage us to resist acting on the destructive emotions (fear, guilt, pain, loss, etc.) which will on occasion invade our hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). When our hearts and minds function as partners, He becomes more and we become less. We move further through the process of sanctification; closer to a state of glorification. Thus, a Christian’s heart and mind must be partners—not enemies.
Therefore, I pray that we may exhibit sentimentality for that which is good, holding onto it with a firm grasp. And that we may both love deeply and act wisely in Christ, through the Holy Spirit.