On Remembering Well

“Remember” is a common word in my home.

My wife, knowing the doubts that too often cloud my mind, will recount God’s faithfulness to me: Remember when we moved to Idaho with $200 and no place to live. Remember how the Lord gave us jobs and a house-sitting gig. Remember when your dad died and we couldn’t afford to go to the funeral. Remember how God moved the hearts of our friends and employers to give us money and time off to go say goodbye. Remember when we moved to Kansas City so you could do a PhD. We didn’t have jobs, and certainly didn’t want to live in the Midwest, but remember how the Lord gave us jobs, a home, and a church family. Remember God’s goodness. Remember God’s faithfulness. Remember God’s unfailing love and provision for us. Remember.

My wife has to remind of God’s faithfulness because I tend to misremember the past. Like the children of Israel during the wandering years, I often long for the false memory that’s been planted deep in my own wandering heart. I am wont to say to God, “Why did you bring me here to die? Let me return to Egypt, where I had my fill of meat, and plenty of bread, too!”

Of course, you and I know the true story. The Israelites didn’t have plenty of bread and meat. Things were not so grand in Egypt, where they suffered as slaves under the Pharaoh who knew not Joseph. They toiled long and hard, with no real relief in sight. And yet, only a short time after their deliverance, they misremembered their time in Egypt. In their minds it was a land of plenty, a land of provision. The barren wilderness forced them to trust in Yahweh’s provision—which he amply provided—but their sinful hearts refused to remain faithful to the God who had shown such great faithfulness to them.

Israel’s sin was not that they remembered their time in Egypt, for God told them repeatedly to remember it (e.g., Deut 5:15; 15:15; 24:18). Their sin—and my own—is that they remembered it wrongly. In failing to remember what Egypt was truly like, and how God miraculously delivered them through the Red Sea, with a cloud by day and fire by night, they crippled their ability to trust God in their wandering. Their mis-memory led them down a path of unfaithfulness and longing for what never really was. Had they remembered well, they would have known that Yahweh brought them out of Egypt, made them his people, and loved them. Remembering well would have encouraged them to remain faithful to God because he had been faithful to them.

I often misremember. I’m prone to long for Egypt because I forget the truth about God’s character and faithfulness. My wife reminds me often, and I sometimes remind myself, to remember well. Think on God’s faithfulness. Think on God’s goodness. Think on the cross, where God demonstrated his love, goodness, and faithfulness in ways we just can’t grasp. Remember well and delight in God.