Remembering - Vital Ingredient for Sustainable Faith
"Sustainable Faith" is an important topic, as it seems to be the case from the very beginning of the church, right down to this very week, that it is surprisingly easy to jettison one's faith, with the result that our days our lived out in wandering and discontent, far from the spirit of hope and celebration that is supposed to characterize those who claim to follow Christ.
The sustainability seems to come from our tendency to forget what we should remember, and remember what we should forget. For example, God repeatedly warns Israel to take great care to remember what they'd seen God do for them. The reason? Yesterday's provision becomes a storehouse of encouragement for tomorrow's challenges, which will no doubt require faith and obedience. But if we've forgotten how God has provided in the past, we might easily fall prey to discouragement when the challenges in front of us appear too daunting. Thus do we shrink back from obedience sometimes, simply because we forgot.
The remedy? REMEMBER. The ways God encouraged Israel to remember were simple. He had them erect markers to remind them of amazing acts He'd carried out. He invited them to specific times of celebration as a means of recalling their story.
We too need markers. The parking lot at the public school across the street from our church will always remind me of how God orchestrated things so that we could serve our neighborhood school by building a parking lot and, in the process, meet our own requirements for parking so that we could build a new sanctuary. The elements that needed to fall into place for such a thing to happen are too many, the timing too perfect, the odds against it too great, to be coincidence. Thus, when I see the new parking lot at this elementary school (and I see it every day), I'm reminded of God's faithfulness. There are many such markers in my life (including the caribiner in the picture) to help me remember God's activity. I hope you have markers too, because there are probably physical representations of God's faithfulness present, but 'seeing them' is another problem entirely (worthy of a different post). However, without the seeing, we're prone to forget.
We too need celebration. Are there times when you break away from the normal routine of things and spend some time celebrating? The other night, with our children all out of the house, my wife and I spent some time remembering God's faithfulness in our lives. The context was bittersweet, because the whole conversation arose because a family crisis having to do with aging parents. Still, it was very good to spend time thinking back over God's faithful provision, both in our own lives, and the lives of our parents. This isn't some sort of Polly Anna blind optimism that refuses to look at reality. Rather it's an acknowledgment that, in spite of the loss and difficulties that have been endured, God has provided - grace, direction, material abundance, and moments of piercing joy and beauty.
But perhaps most of all, we need stories. The Christian life, if it is reduced to a set of propositions to which we adhere, will ultimately be boring and unsustainable. That's because real life in Christ is a journey, and along the way there will be tangible forks in the road, and we'll look back and say, "Look what happened because we turned a corner here; took a step of faith there..." "Look at the gift God gave us that night in the old fire tower, looking out over the San Juans and Vancouver Island as the sun set, as the moon rose, as we prayed, those four of us from Austria, Mississippi, Canada, and USA." "Look at that gift of companionship... that gift of rest..."
Do you know how desperately we need to remember? Without the gift of memory, every tomorrow becomes a daunting, anxiety producing uncertainty. With it, there comes the realization that, if God was with us yesterday, He will be still on the morrow!
Of course, it's vital that we remember the right things, which is where forgetting comes into play. But I'll save that for the next entry.