For the past eleven days, David has been with a team in India presenting leadership workshops for small business owners and university students. Before he left, he asked me to write a guest post, but a couple of days ago I couldn’t recall the topic he suggested. “You know”, he said, “the stuff you’ve been researching about remembering?” A great case in point.
I’m in a mentoring relationship with a young woman I barely knew six months ago. For the first few months, we began mapping our life stories and over time we became more comfortable and vulnerable with each other. We tried reading and discussing a couple of relevant books, but these days we use five questions to guide our weekly conversations:
1. What was the best part of your week?
2. What was the hardest part?
3. When did you most sense your Heavenly Father’s presence?
4. How did you live out of faith in Christ . . . or what else did you put your hope in?
5. What do you need most from the Holy Spirit? Is there a scripture that sums that up?
Could you answer those questions on the fly? Yesterday I couldn’t, because I could barely remember what happened last Monday! Candid answers to big questions require attention, remembrance and reflection few of us make space for. Often our weekdays blur together, then our weekends flash by and before we know it, another week has begun without evaluating or commemorating how a day or week has touched or transformed us.
Attention. A constant torrent of sights and sounds commands our attention every day. Discerning between every ding or whoosh, Tweet or Skype keeps our brains on overload. How can we possibly attend to the invisible and inaudible? We need God to make us increasingly conscious of his caring presence and support throughout the day. Paul remembered his Ephesian friends in his prayers asking “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened . . .” (1:17-18). Every morning begin with a simple prayer, inviting your Heavenly Father to come along with you and to empower your senses to recognize the opportunity and promise within each moment. That brings up another challenge.
Remembrance. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk, “The Riddle of Experience versus Memory,” sums up his research about the “experiencing self” and the “remembering self”, two very different entities. The experiencing self lives in the present, in moments of experience one after the other. The remembering self constructs stories delivered by the memory, which is not a recording device or a hard drive like some suggest. Frankly, most moments of experience leave no trace in our memory and are lost forever. We are most likely to remember change, significant moments or endings. A negative word blurted out in an instant, a day that brings difficult news, or a week that ends badly, can easily distort the story you internalize about the state of your life.
Remembering is the theme of over two hundred Bible verses from Genesis to Revelation. These can be summed up simply: We forget God. God remembers us . . . and every promise he has made. In the time of Malachi the prophet, God heard his people saying “It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.” Malachi 3:14-16 goes on to say that “the LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name.” God not only remembers, but he records our wanderings and tears in His book. (Psalm 56:8). He also sent us the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to dwell in us forever in order to pour out the love of God into our hearts, guide us into truth and bring to our remembrance all that Jesus taught (John 14:26; 16:13).
Reflection. Remember what Daniel Kahneman said about the staying power of endings? Setting aside even a small slice of time before bed to contemplate God’s presence and to recount his promises will deliver Truth to the remembering self, which maintains the story of your life. We remember by intentional repetition and association, so at the end of each day, look back on both its best and hardest moments, when you were most aware of being in God’s company, and where your hope rests for the future. Once again, ask God to keep opening your eyes to pay attention, remember and commemorate how he is folding your story into His.
In His joy,
Elaine Everett Atchison
Today I pray for my sisters and brothers “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened . . . that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Amen. (from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians)