Don’t Forget! || Jill Zimmerman McFadden

Posted on September 4th, by Jill Zimmerman McFadden in Heart. 1 Comment

Don’t Forget! || Jill Zimmerman McFadden

We’re happily expecting a baby boy in November, and along with the aches and pains and restless nights that come with growing a human inside you, there’s one pregnancy symptom that has really surprised me – “baby brain.”  Seriously, it’s hard to develop a coherent thought these days, much less remember it for more than three minutes.  My husband has found orange juice in the cabinet and missing spices in the fridge.  I will forget what I’m talking about… while I’m talking about it.  [In fact, I make no promises that the rest of this post will make any sense whatsoever.]

It’s hard for me to remember anything.  Which is unfortunate, because during this season of life I’m also experiencing a whole new set of things to anxious about – parenting, childbirth, balancing work and family, childbirth, the baby’s health, childbirth…  And it’s clear in scripture that one antidote to anxiety is the thing that is so hard to come by right now – remembering.

The call to remember is prominent throughout the Old Testament.  In Deuteronomy, you might be familiar with the command given to Israel to write God’s laws on their doorways and gates, to tie them to their hands and foreheads (Deut. 6:6-9).  Clearly they were supposed to remember what God had told them to do, and how he had instructed them to live.  But there is more.  Throughout Deuteronomy, as Israel is receiving instruction on how to live as God’s people, they are continually called to remember what God had done for them.  The rationale for obedience was always set in the context of remembering who God is and what he had done.  Yahweh was the God who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt.  He was the one who had dried the Red Sea and drowned their enemies.  He was the one who still cared for them and was bringing them to the Promised Land, even after many episodes of complaining, forgetting, and idol-worshiping.  This is the God they were to obey, the God whose character their own lives and actions were to display.  This is the God they were to trust, when enemies threatened or famine struck.  If they remembered what he had done for them and in them in the past, they could trust him with their future.

The remembering that Israel was called to do took several forms (not that they always did it well..):

Storytelling.  They remembered by gathering together and recounting out loud the stories of what God had done.  Many of them had great-grandparents that might have seen the Red Sea part firsthand.  This oral tradition was passed down and talked about.

Physical Markers.  We also see people constructing physical markers, or altars of remembrance, after God did something momentous in their lives.  Usually these were stone markers or actual altars.  (Ever wondered about the weird line in the hymn “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” – “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by thy help I’ve come”?  “Ebenezer” just means “stone of help”, like the one we see Samuel raise in I Samuel 7 after a particular awesome victory in battle).

Ritual Actions of Remembrance.  There were things that Israelites did repeatedly to remember what God had done in specific times and places for his people.  Every year they celebrated Passover to remember that the angel of Lord passed over Israel when coming to strike the Egyptians.  They had feasts to remind them to thank God at harvest time, and to remember their time wandering in the wilderness.  These were rhythms built into life to prompt remembering.

I could really benefit from the discipline of remembering right now.

It’s hard to trust that God will be faithful no matter what when we never think about how he’s been faithful in the past – both in our personal narratives and in the larger narrative of God’s involvement with his people.

Maybe you could use a little more remembering and a little less forgetfulness in your life as well.  Try some of these ideas with me this week:

Storytelling.  Do you tell the story of what God has done in your life?  Try journaling.  Meet a friend for coffee to hear what God is doing in their life, and to share what he has done in yours.  It’s helpful, with our bent toward forgetfulness, to have close enough relationships with others that they can point out what God has done in our lives if we’re forgetting.  And don’t forget the importance of corporate worship!  Every Sunday, we are re-narrating the story of what God has done on behalf of his people.

Physical Markers.  Raised any Ebenezers lately?  Building a huge stone altar in your front yard or dorm room might be a little weird for the neighbors.  But next time you’re on a hike, you could make one of those stone cairns (basically, a stack of rocks) and have each one represent something God has done that you want to remember.  Or, take a picture that symbolizes to you something God has done, and stick it in your journal or Bible.  Other ideas?

Ritual Actions of Remembrance.  We do this every time we celebrate communion at church – we remember what Jesus has done to rescue us.  We situate the little stories of our individual lives in the context of his great rescue.  And, there are other things we can build into the rhythm of life that prompt us to remember God’s actions.  Add an element to your family Thanksgiving or Christmas meal and try to recount together what God has done over the year.  Go on a personal retreat every year around the same time, and just spend time reflecting on where God has brought you that year, and thanking him for it.

Basically, we remember so that we can praise God for what he has done, and so we can trust him for the future.  If he is the God who got me through ____ and did ____ for his people, then even if what I fear most right now actually happens – he will show himself faithful.  Faithful in ways I wouldn’t even know to expect right now.  He will not forget me (even when I forget him).  In fact, running parallel to all the commands to remember what God has done, there are continuous promises throughout the Bible that Yahweh is the God who remembers us (I Chr 16:15).

Jill Zimmerman McFadden Jill McFadden is married to Ian, directs worship and arts at Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, and plays in the folk acoustic trio Ordinary Time. She studied Christianity and the Arts at Regent College.
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