Remembering or Not Forgetting

The first time I ever voted was in a presidential election just a few months after my eighteenth birthday.  At the time, my polling place was my old elementary school, which I hadn’t visited in about seven years.

In the grand scheme of life, seven years isn’t a long time to wait before returning to an old haunting place.  I was young, though, and those seven years were nearly half my life at the time, so I waxed a little nostalgic when I remembered “the old days.”

I walked through the once-confusing halls where we used to form lines only on the blue square tiles and never on the white.

Then I stepped into the cafeteria where I had once been utterly overwhelmed by long lunch lines that never went fast enough.  There was always so much noise and chaos and teachers flickering the lights to signal us to quiet down.

That gym was also the frightening place where I had failed at rope-climbing and gymnastics and kickball.

My memories of elementary school were of general bewilderment.

Not really knowing where I was going.

Missing the bus once because I’d gotten lost walking to my brother’s classroom to pick up his homework.

Navigating tricky relationships with girls who were cooler than me and who all, unlike me, had a favorite singer in New Kids on the Block.  They even had boy band buttons and sweaters, notebooks, and necklaces.

When I returned as a voting adult, it all seemed so much smaller than I had remembered.  The halls and rooms that had loomed so large weren’t so big after all.

Not just that, but I had some emotional re-sizing to do.  All of the elementary school crises that had stressed me out in fourth and fifth grade were put in perspective.

Did it matter that I was the only girl (yes, the only one!) who hadn’t rocked out to New Kids on the Block tunes at my friends’ birthday parties?

Had I been stunted and set for a life of failure all because of my elementary P.E. hopelessness?

I suppose the biggest lesson for me that day was that memory is a faulty thing, rarely accurate, mostly relative and generally a slave to the emotional filter we’re using at the time.

After all, the size of that school building hadn’t changed an inch.  I had grown.  I had changed.  Now I saw that same campus differently.

We have a way sometimes of relying on our own memories too much.  We think, “God gave me this miracle!  I’ll never forget it!”

Yet, within a month we’re stressing out over another need, totally forgetting that God has delivered us before and He could do it again.

We look back on the past and think, “Things were so much better then!  If only I could get back to such happiness, such simplicity, such ease!”

That’s when we sound most like the Israelites on their way out of Egypt, who turned 400 years of slavery into their own version of “Those Good Old Days.”

They whined (weren’t they always whining?):

 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic (Numbers 11:5).

At no cost?  It seems to me their fish and salad diet came at a great cost, the loss of freedom and harsh labor conditions, the murder of their sons, and restrictions on their worship.

In that moment, though, wandering in the wilderness, facing opposition and obstacles, they were willing to trade their freedom for the old salad bars of Egypt.  Why?  Not because they remembered.

It was because they forgot.

And that’s what we do so much of the time.  We forget what God has done for us.  We forget where we came from and all that He’s brought us through.  We forget what it was really like.

Remembering the truth—that takes work—and the telling and re-telling of our life stories.

God tells us when we drink the cup and eat the bread and Scripture says, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

We tell ourselves when we write out prayer journals and gratitude lists to remember what God has done.

We tell each other when, like Paul, we proclaim “the testimony about God” (1 Corinthians 2:1).

We tell our children by talking “about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Through telling, we remember, maybe not perfectly, maybe not flawlessly.  But at least we don’t forget.

How do you remember what God has done for you?

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Today’s post is part of the August topic ‘Memory’ by the Blog Chain. You can click on the links on the right side of this page to read more articles in this series.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King