By Micah Behr
After a house fire claimed most of my possessions and temporarily displaced my housemate and me earlier this year, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling the sense of loss that one might naturally feel after a significant life event like a fire. I traced part my lack of grief back to the lack of someone to share it with. As a single person approaching my mid-thirties, it can feel like I will always carry my memories alone. When a portion of those memories were obscured by smoke and flame and no one was there to share in my mental catalogue of what had been lost, it felt like a confirmation that my memories aren’t very important.
A friend asked what had been the hardest part of my first visit back to the house. I knew immediately: I was unable to recover a short note that a former housemate had written me before he moved away. When things felt particularly bleak in my life, I would re-read the letter and will myself toward belief in the love that was expressed in it, and toward the fiercer love to which it pointed. Because I was going through a difficult time with that friend when the fire came, it seemed fitting, in a way, that those small scraps of our friendship would be taken too.
When I communicated some of these thoughts to another friend, she said something I can’t recall anyone having said to me before: “Micah, your memories matter.” The simplicity of her words landed with surprising weight and reminded me that my fear of carrying insignificant memories alone was one I’ve wrestled with for some time. Last year, I wrote a song about it for my church to sing during this season of Advent. The chorus asks, “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, Have you stored our tears?”
In the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we hear a resounding “Yes!” In Christ, we see the intangible entering history and partaking in human memory. Not unlike the new friend who recently visited my town for the first time and asked to see “Micah’s Madison,” Jesus steps out of eternity and into time, asking to see the coffee shops I visit, the venues where I perform music, the places where I spend hours alone. As I showed my friend around the places that held significance for me, I was reminded of the goodness of being tethered by memories to a place, even while feeling the frustration of not having a home to welcome him into.
Such visitations make me long with my forebears for the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. I join the Psalmist saying, “You have kept count of my tossings. You have put my tears in your bottle.” With the apostle who rested on Jesus’ breast, I testify that, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4, ESV).
A true and lasting home has come to take their place.
Micah works as a musician, a worship leader, and now a part-time CIVA employee. He attended UW-Madison as a Graduate student, and now teaches and performs music in the Madison area. When not working one of his many part-time jobs, he can be found in the kitchen feeding his sourdough starter.