It’s a late Friday night and I’m found nestled in between two piles of photo albums. I have a picture in my mind so familiar that it must be true.
I see. . .Purple and white petunias.
So, I sift and search through pages of the past to help me find the meaning of my memory. Memory. . .it’s something precious. For me, I lost quite a bit of it long ago. Daily writing has come in handy with a constant telling of stories, taking pictures, and re-telling over and over again; I can rebuild what once was.
My 6 yr old, Jessica peeks her inquisitive cheeks around the corner, “whatcha doin’ mom?” At her feet she catches a glimpse of a photo taken of me at age 7. “Oh, look! A Memory!” Watching me over the past years studying picture after picture she has learned that these books of photographs are actually memories. Memories for me, locked behind a clear plastic protective cover.
We call them memories. . .the pictures that link my past to my present. At 4 yrs old, the anger and rage of another sought out destruction on my brain. A brain that just wasn’t healthy enough then to withstand the additional strike of a car accident at 16 yrs old. The migraines started shortly after and then like a missing dash in a sequence. . .the puzzle pieces began to fall out of place.
I LOVE taking pictures. Capturing each moment in time that I refuse to lose. Something simple. . .the drawing of a whale on the tile floor by a toddler who knows no limits to discovery; the beauty of each sunset and sunrise; blades of grain waving to me in the wind; the artistry in a bank of clouds; a Lego village; smiles and smiles from those I hold dear. They are my memory.
Why does God give us a memory bank in the brain? Is it so we can live a story over and over again? So we can learn from the past and improve? So we can better predict what happens next? What about the memory lost? I once believed memories were both a blessing and a curse. And for me, one morning when I actually could no longer remember my childhood; I felt utterly cursed. And then we started diving into that blank past and discovered what a blessing it was to have a clean slate. Bad memories, misused and undefined serve as an invisible fence, holding us in. . .keeping us back from moving on. Removing those memories served me well most of the time.
But if I look at our sovereign God, the one who creates, gives and takes, and directs all by design, then I must consider even the remembered horrors of the past. . .a blessing. A memory given to serve a purpose. A map directing me on my journey. An answer key.
Why does God want us to remember?
The Bible tells us over and over again to “remember.” Every word in the Bible is of value. However, there are some words that perpetually appear. Could it be that the Lord does indeed want us to remember? He’s driving in that fact.
It tells us in Deuteronomy- “ 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.”
Remember what once was. . .the hard. And remember the rescue!
To have true thankfulness of our present is to constantly bring to memory the pictures of the past and embrace the glorious joy of a promised future.
God knows our faulty human minds and that a memory fades. It is this reason He states to “remember.” It isn’t always a mental recall, but an act. The Old Testament Hebrew word for remember is Zakar. It’s meaning: remember, recall or call to mind. Thinking back is just one way to remember. We also remember by our acts of worship. Our traditions, our purposeful acts that bring to mind what the Lord has done and what His promises yet to come. Our sifting over and over again through both our and other’s “memories.” The pictures they paint in His words. . .the stories they tell.
The Lord tells us to “remember the Sabbath.” I love this way of Zakar. Yes, we actually have a day each week in which we can recall to mind the wonder of God through His six day creation and his day to rest. How vast is His creation and how great is this God that brought it all into existence. God is not just asking us to sit around and say, “Oh, hey. . .remember the Sabbath?” Remembering in this context is an act. Following a command in obedience to Sabbath IN remembrance. These acts of choosing to remember through reading His words over and over and over again and call to mind in the moment. . .the hour we need them. . .are the reason we should aim to always remember.
Paul in written word so that we may recall the past, shows us in I Cor. 11:1-2 “But ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.”
We remember what God has done for us. His ev
erlasting Grace, His unbelievable mercy, His redemption and rescue from the enslavement of the past so we can appreciate, be thankful and feel joy for both the present and hope for the future.
We remember His promises. Genesis 9:14-15a
“It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant.” God calls to our memory with a bow of beauty to remind us that He has always kept his promises and has given us the hope and promise of a rescue from this broken world. He is coming back! He has promised. . .He has remembered. . .and we read His words to remind us that our labor is not in vain. We read His words as a picture to the brain. . .burned now into a memory.
And just as quickly. . .we forget. I forget. I forget His Grace, Mercy, Rescue and promises. My Exodus from my enslavement to sin. . .even this. . .I have forgotten. So, I grab that big book and read His words to link His past to my present. . .and then to my future.
I close the last book and give up on the memory locked behind. We drive to the store. . .the spring sun warms the air and Phil opens the windows to smell the fresh cut grass along the roadside. I close my eyes and I smell it. . .I see it. . .it’s right there in front of me. . .a memory. Bare feet walking a path of freshly cut green grass. Slightly wet, the Colorado velvet soft cools my feet. I see my mom’s red shoes in front of me. With one foot in front of the other, she pushes the green lawn mower making paths in the grass to form a pattern. I hear the muffled sounds of the engine. I see our split rail fence sheltering the purple and white petunias below. I can feel the sticky of their leaves and smell their sweet perfume. I see my mother’s face and there I have it. . .my moment forgotten. My memory. God’s great grace. He remembers me. . .and I remember Him.