The story of the Hebrew Scriptures is a tale of forgetting. God sends Moses, who with many signs confronts the emperor of one of the greatest empires of the day without a weapon, and sets free a nation of slaves. Through him, they part the Reed Sea, walking through on dry land, and defeat the most powerful army of the day without raising a weapon. God guides them through a winding journey to a rich and plentiful new home. Yet after the journey, the people forget God, turning on each other, oppressing the poor and stranger. When disaster comes back, they remember and cry out.
Without taking time to remember God’s hand in our lives, we can do the same thing. We can forget the lessons our lives teach, lessons God has provided us to show us the next step in our lives. We can forget how God has brought us, becoming frustrated and impatient to not be as far ahead on life’s journey as we wish, forgetting how far we have come. We can forget that certain choices led to painful situations where we, like Israel, cried out for deliverance. Forgetting the deliverance, we can fall back into self-destructive patterns.
I know I find it easy to forget. So when I faced recently someone dear to me with life-threatening illness, I did not remember in the crisis how God had brought them and me through a time of fearful illness before and my heart sank. When I turned to prayer and meditation, I remembered and though only a glimmer of light in gathering darkness, I did have a spark of hope to light my way.
In going through a career transition, I forget. I forget how far God has brought me, what doors I never expected God has opened, and both how long it took to get where I am and how hard it was to make that journey. I forget so when I see I am not yet where I want to be, I find I beat myself up. Yet when I pause to meditate and pray, if I let myself I remember and instead of frustration I am overwhelmed by gratitude. And I know God will get me where I need to go, if I continue to walk with Christ.
I could go on..
It also challenges me to instill this lesson in others.
I remember how my grandmother walked alongside me as a boy, up and down the street of Fayetteville, NC, my little hand in her wrinkled hand, telling me of her faith as a devout Baptist and life as a school teacher. She instilled in me a love for learning, and a recognition that God made me with a purpose.
I remember sitting by the fishing hole with daddy while he told me, pointing at the plants, the birds, the trees, how God made all of that and God made me. I remember, too, daddy telling me how his faith was borne in his soul, shaped in the forge of fiery preaching under a big tent in Jekyll Island, GA, while lighting and thunder shook the ground.
I remember my momma telling me to find my own path, and seek God for myself, knowing my faith need not look like hers and dad’s, and how that opened the door for the winding journey that leads met to where I am today.
I remember too an older gentleman named Eddie from daddy’s church whose find of faith challenged him to learn to read, so he could know the Bible’s words for himself and how those words helped him to discover “Eddie” and “the other Eddie”, learning to navigate how to be his best self, not giving in to that part of him that veered from the path of Christ.
I remember so many voices, faces, and examples that layed the soil, planted the seed, and watered the promise of an emerging faith in my soul.
I am reminded as I reflect on my journey the value of the admonition in this Psalm to also pass on our memories of faith’s shaping us to the next generation. My own faith was born in part out of the witness of these many who surrounded me.
Let us take time to remember, and to share the lessons our life teaches us, both that we may be true to the path before us and help others embrace the path God is setting for them.