Ben Reaoch | Category: The Christian Life
Memory is a mysterious part of who we are. Sometimes we forget things that we had meant to remember and needed to remember, wanted to remember—maybe someone’s birthday or an anniversary. Other times our thoughts gravitate toward things we wish we could forget—painful memories from the past or hurtful words that someone had spoken to us. Our memories don’t function like a hard drive on a computer. We can’t save the good memories and put the bad ones in the trash bin. It’s more complex than that.
My grandmother passed away in 2010, after suffering from Alzheimer’s for many years. Many aspects of her memory had declined over those years, but there were still memories that remained. Decades earlier in my grandmother’s life she had made a project of writing memoirs of her mother’s life. She would talk to her mom on the phone every Friday. Then, in her own handwriting, she wrote out the story of her mom’s life . . . how she lost her parents at a very young age and then was adopted by a family in Germany, and then moved back to the States and married a man named Benjamin Graffin.
My aunt Carol would read those memoirs to my grandmother in her final years and months of life, and there would be a connection. Many memories had faded and disappeared, but when those things were read to her, there was an obvious spark.
Interestingly, another thing that created a spark was music. As the Alzheimer’s progressed there was a point where my grandmother could not even put words together into a coherent sentence. But when she heard certain songs from the WWII era, all of a sudden she would begin singing right along, knowing the words to the songs.
The way the human memory works is, indeed, a fascinating thing. Writing things down is a great way to remember. Journaling can be a great benefit to us when, years down the road we can be reminded of what was happening, what we were thinking about, what we were praying about, at a particular time. Music, too, can be a great tool for remembering.
When it comes to remembering God’s faithfulness, we can be especially forgetful. One striking example of this is found in the book of Exodus, chapters 14 and 16. In the span of just a couple of chapters, we see the Israelites delivered from slavery and brought through the Red Sea, and then they are grumbling about not having food to eat.
We want to say to them, “Don’t you remember what God just did for you! The water stood up like two walls and you walked through the Red Sea on dry ground! Don’t you think that the God who can do that is also capable of giving you food to eat? Trust Him!”
We want to grab them by the shoulders and talk some sense into them. And then, of course, we remember that we do the same sort of thing. God brings us through some trial, answers some prayer, and within a few days it’s almost forgotten. We’re already looking to the next struggle on the horizon and finding reasons to gripe and complain.
We have to find ways of remembering God’s faithfulness. We have to build into our lives routines and traditions that give us regular and vivid reminders of God’s past faithfulness. And then, when the future looks grim, we can meditate on those memories and be assured that the God who has been so faithful in the past is the God who will remain faithful in the future. We can trust Him. He’s going to come through for us again and again and again.
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