Something that I think we take for granted sometimes is the power of place. There are places that we have been in our lives that are full of meaning and memories. I can think of several places from my past that evoke not just fond memories but powerful emotions of identity and formation. Glorieta, New Mexico is one such place. I love Glorieta. I spent many summer weeks at a conference center there. Some of my favorite life experiences occurred there when I was a teenager. For me it is a spiritual place, the kind that I hope to someday take a pilgrimage to. The conference center at Ridgecrest, North Carolina is another such place. Again, the place is so loaded with meaning for me that just thinking about the place makes me wonder what I need to do to go there as soon as possible.
Places evoke remembrances that take us back and enable us to relive our past. Events occur in places whether it at a college or a high school or a backyard. We think of these places to revisit a different time in our lives. Most of the time, and for good reason, we tend to revisit places that give us positive emotions, choosing to remember the good over the bad. Good for us.
Reading the stories of the Israelites in the Old Testament also speaks to me about the power of place. Think about the way they named places (Bethel: “the house of God” or Peniel “face of God”). Places for the Israelites were supposed to bring memories and emotions. The places became reminders of times when God saved them, provided for them, or judged them. Sometimes the place would continually be a site for events in Israel’s history. Jerusalem is a place for Abraham where he is blessed by Melchizedek and a place for David where he will build the city that will house the temple of the Lord. Hebron is another important place that the Israelites could look upon and recall the history of their people from Abraham to that present day.
The power of place is something that we can all draw from. These places help us to understand how we came to be who we are and who we were. I wonder what the Hebrew is for “the place where I met my future wife” or “here I first saw my daughter.”