The Discipline of Remembering

The Discipline of Remembering

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I took a little walk down memory lane and read through some of my journals from college. On one hand I feel like an entirely different person than I was 10 years ago. I was encouraged to see that the years had provided at least a tiny bit of wisdom. But as I read through the pages I was also struck by how far I haven’t come. Some of the things I wrestled with and struggled to understand about God and His will for my life then are still things I wrestle with today. In some ways I feel like the line from a Bebo Norman song: No farther forward, just farther along.

With this in mind I was reading through Deuteronomy last week. It struck me that the Lord asked the Israelites to remember; to remember His laws and commandments, and to remember how He had rescued them and led them. The interesting thing to note is the timing of all this. God’s people had been wandering in the desert for the last 40 years, and now they’re about to enter the land God had promised them. The end is in sight, and their prayers are about to be answered.  

God did not want them to forget all Je had done for them.  He tells them:

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm (5:15, ESV).

If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm (7:17-19).

And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not (8:2).”

There’s power in remembering. It keeps our doubts at bay when we focus on what the Lord has already done for us and what He will continue to do for us. And sometimes our faith is strengthened in the waiting because it forces us to remember. When they faced opposition, the Israelites could remember how God delivered them from Pharaoh. When their crops were threatened, they could remember the manna that came every day.

I like the idea of disciplining myself to remember. To look back and see how the Lord has directed every single step I’ve taken and ordained every one of my days according to His perfect will.

What helps you remember?

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  • Timely words for me.  Thank you!!

  • Like you, I have kept journals for years, and it can be absolutely fascinating to see my progress (or lack thereof!) over the years.

    I make a particular point to write down anything I consider prophecy.  Then I have clear, hard evidence to show people when I say that sometimes, God *does* tell us what he will bring, if we listen to His voice.  More than that, it's a personal confirmation for me that God knows us and our future.  

  • I've also found it really interesting to read back through old journals.  Like you, I am encouraged by the better perspective I have on life, but discouraged by the things I still struggle with.

    A couple years ago, I was preparing a staff devotional during the week leading up to Easter and felt led to focus on the idea of remembering (though I hadn't considered it as a discipline).  The thing that really stuck out to me was that while God calls us to remember, He actually does the same.  Even in the midst of punishing the Israelites for their disobedience, He says that He could never forget them, just as a mother could never forget her child.  He constantly remembers the death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf as Christ intercedes for us.  Remembering leads to wisdom, gratitude and awareness of the bigger story in which we are living.  I'm definitely going to reflect more on this idea of remembering as a discipline and consider how I can apply that to my spiritual life.

  • While I haven't relied on journals, pictures do it for me. I can look at a photo and remember all the feelings of the time.

    My mother is a journal fanatic though, and I've recently had her look some things up for me. We are exceptionally emotional people, so it's almost overkill for me!

  • As I'm exercising I pray for friends/family in need. It's a great way to keep my mind off the work and always remember to pray for those in need. Thanks for the blog!!

  • Whenever I read these passages about remembering, I always think of James Earl Jones' booming voice in the Lion King, "Remember!" [echo: remember, remember, remember, remember] ;-)

    I've never thought of remembering as a discipline, but it definitely makes sense. I know I often record answered prayers, small ones and big ones, in prayer journals and I often blog to share with others. Sometimes it's remembering those little ways He provides that remind us that the great God of the universe cares for our small needs. I guess I've tried to make a habit out to looking for the little gifts and answered prayers in daily life.

    SarahJane, I love that idea too that God also remembers us like a mother remembers her baby or a bridegroom remembers his bride. I love the contrast of those passages with others that say that God "forgets" our sin. Simply amazing that He would remember us and forget our sin!

  • I look at where I am right now  and that's all I need to remember. I find myself really saying Ebenezer. Remembrance truly leads  to thankfulness. One should always look back to his/her humble beginnings to see how much blessings he/she has received.

  • Kim -- now I'm going to see/hear Mufasa booming in my head every time I think of remembering too :)

    I've kept journals for years as well (sometimes faithfully, sometimes sporadically).  It's always interesting to look back.  But as a sensitive introvert, I often find myself guilty of only taking time to journal when I'm deeply hurt.  If someone from the future read my journals, they'd probably think, "Gee, her life sucked!"  Even though that's not true, generally speaking.  My journals miss a lot (though not all) of the high points in life.  Something I'm constantly working on.

    That does help me remember how God brought me through those hard times.  But what's really helped me more was reading the book "One Thousand Gifts" by Ann Voskamp, which our pastor's wife recommended to me.  The book is Ann's story of her personal efforts to intentionally cultivate an attitude of always being grateful to God by, among other things, keeping a list of things she is thankful for.  Everything from big stuff like spending time with her family to little stuff like grated cheese.

    Inspired by her story, I've started my own "gratitude list".  It helps me remember God's past blessings, _and_ it forces me to intentionally keep thanking Him for who He is and His goodness and mercy.  Regardless of how I may actually feel at the moment.

  • Journaling  is far too subjective for me. I see no value in writing down what is most likely to be my own imaginings.

    It is of far more value to remind myself from the Book written by God, than one  written by me.

    I also observe with a wry smile that only a male would respond to the question, " How do you love me"...with "Well reread the letter that I wrote you 2000 years ago!"

  • Good stuff!  I had never thought of remembering as a discipline till a pastor mentioned it a few years ago.  But it's all over the Bible!  Joshua had the Israelites set up stones as a monument for the future, to remember how God brought them across the river.  And the Psalms are full of cries to God, remembering what He did in the past in order to bring encouragement for some new struggle.

    I haven't been the greatest at journaling, but my mom gave me a nice one awhile back and I've decided it's going to be a "faithfulness" journal.  I want to record all those times I've seen God working in unmistakable ways!  I know even praying those things back to God fuels my faith, so I don't want to forget any of them.  I like to think it might fuel the faith of my kids (or nieces or nephews) some day, too :)

  • ThoughIi am not good at keeping a journal, I have found remembering to be an efficient way to encourage myself in the Lord.

    The last 4 years have had twists and turns I never would have thought possible and though I am still waiting for breakthroughs in a number of areas, remembering how God has still taken me through regardless just stirs my faith. It reminds me of how far I have come and the little miracles I have seen along the way and not dwell too much on how far I still want to go or how much I need to do.

    @ AMahoney, a faithfulness journal is a cool thing. you could make it a point to read it as the year comes to end to remind yourself the different ways both big and small that God has come through for you in the year- I am doing this this year too.

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