Last month I had the chance to make a quick trip to my parents’ home in St. Louis. While my daughter Sophie and I were there, we went to a pizza place I loved going to as a teenager. It’s called Pantera’s, and I found out there is one left. So I took my daughter and my parents there.
Let’s just say that it wasn’t what I remembered.
We walked in, and the first thing I noticed is what wasn’t there. As in, seating. There were two tables. Three chairs. And four of us. The glory that had been Pantera’s Pizza — the place of such great memories for me — had been reduced to a pizza delivery place.
Now, you need to understand how much I enjoyed going to Pantera’s when I was in high school. It was the place for the kids in my youth group at church to go on Sunday nights. I loved the pizza, I loved the video games (ah, Dig Dug, where have you gone?), I loved hanging out, and, yes, I loved being around the girls (I was a teenager, remember?). Pantera’s was about more than pizza; it was a chance each week to experience life.
There’s a lesson in all this (isn’t there always?). And for me, it’s a reminder that we can’t go back. Life can’t be lived in reverse. We have to learn from the past, but we can’t live in the past. The past is a good place to visit, but you really don’t want to live there.
In fact, isn’t that what grace is all about? It frees us from the past, while helping us learn from it. The grace of God gives us the opportunity to live our lives forward — giving us hope, no matter what our past has been.
At Pantera’s last month, we ordered our pizza, and then discussed where we were going to eat it. There was nowhere outside to sit, and I didn’t want to eat in the car. So we ended up sitting around one of the tables, with me sharing the third and last chair with my daughter. Even if there had been a fourth chair, we couldn’t have sat around all four sides of the table –- the place simply wasn’t big enough.
Going back to Pantera’s reminded me you can’t go home again, but you can revisit its memories. For the pizza tasted just about like I remember it from my high school days. And once again, I got to sit next to a pretty teenage girl. And it was good to spend some time — and life — with those I care about.
(Even so, it still would have been nice if there had been room for even one video game. No doubt I would have impressed my daughter with my mad Dig Dug skills.)