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How good is your memory? Quick – think of the clothes you wore for the last seven days – including undergarments. Remember? Yes – okay, you won! Skip to the next paragraph. For the rest of us, how about the last five days? No? Three days? No?! Do you know what you’re wearing now? Hopefully the answer is yes on that one.
Memory, remembrance, is a complicated thing. There are many reasons we remember some things so clearly and not others. Like what you wore this past week, or what you ate today. But let’s go deeper, and consider more significantly – why is it important to remember?
Well, to start with, it’s our history, our story. If we don’t remember, it’s hard to tell the story. And I would say, it’s not only important to tell our story to others, but how about to ourselves? Did you know you’re telling yourself yourstory much of the time (“self-talk”)?
Think about it. It may be something like:
- This always happens to me…
- Why should it work out? I’m just a (fill in the blank).
Or maybe the story you’re telling yourself is more along the lines of:
- Things always work out the way they’re supposed to.
- I was worried last time, and everything was fine. It will be okay.
But how about the part of our story where God entered in (although, wasn’t He there all along?). For some it’s dramatic, for others it may be gradual, or even a simple, peaceful moment. Do you remember His faithfulness?
Can you recall the times you doubted, and he blew your expectations out of the water? How about times of quiet victory or comfort; the things only you know in your heart where your Heavenly Father came through for you in an intimate way? How about the times of wrestling and struggling, and finally giving in to realize He knew best?
In Joshua 4, Joshua describes the time after the nation of Israel had finished passing over the Jordan and God instructed Joshua to take twelve men, one from each tribe, and twelve stones to make an altar to God where they camped for the night. The Lord then instructed Joshua about the altar:
“…this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:6-7
God instructed the Israelites to be deliberate in setting up a memorial – a way to remember, and be able to tell the story, of God’s faithfulness to them.
What a beautiful picture this is – God wanted to help the people remember how he came through for them, His faithfulness and care for his children. Why? Maybe it’s because He knows we forget. And how much of our anxiety is caused by our forgetting that God is with us, and He has been and will continue to be faithful to us?
We begin telling ourselves our versions of our story. And unfortunately, our versions, without God’s light and truth illuminating them, can be limited and skewed. See Isaiah 55:8-9 and Proverbs 3:5-6.
In the Psalms, the Psalmists tell us how they will remember what God has done and who He is. They are intentional in their statements of this remembrance:
“I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember your wonders of old.” Psalm 77:11
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,” Psalm 105:5
“I remember your name in the night, O LORD, and keep your law.” Psalm 119:55
So while we may not be traveling in the desert, with stones and tribes – we are journeying through life. How can we setup memorial places to remember God’s faithfulness in our lives? These “places” will likely be figurative and not actual places; like drawings, pictures, words written on walls, journal entries, or a hundred other things that may work for you.
But whatever the memorial is, I encourage you to take the time to make that memorial place, to put a marker on the map of your life, when it was so clear that your story and God’s story were one.