Recently, my husband and I celebrated seven years of marriage. Right before our wedding, I bought a journal that we could write in – just little love notes and recordings of memories of things that we did over the years. I imagined we would write things like, “I can’t believe how amazing our marriage is” and “You never ever ever ever frustrate me; you are perfect.” You know, real and honest things like that.
The day of our wedding, I wrote a little note to my husband, Sam, telling him how excited I was and how I couldn’t believe we were about to be married. Then on our first anniversary, I took out the book to read over all of the things that we had written over the past year…and I found that we had written a total of 6 letters. Six letters over 365 days. That’s all. I was so sad to not have recorded the ups and downs of our first year, like our first fight as a married couple, little things we loved about living together, the restaurants we frequented, or our thoughts about our tiny one bedroom basement apartment. I decided that every year, no matter how many letters we had written, our anniversary tradition would consist of looking back over the year, remembering as much as we could, and writing it down in our journal.
Seven years later, we celebrate as we read through what we wrote on each anniversary, remembering vacations, weddings, births, new friends, and loved ones we’ve lost. We laugh at funny memories, we sometimes cry, and we thank God for the years He’s given us and for the years ahead. This is our story. This is the life we’ve graciously been given.
There’s something sacred about remembering, and remembering together. Our stories make us who we are; they bind us together and remind us and others of the faithfulness of God. In Joshua 4:2-8, after the Israelites cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Lord tells Joshua to choose twelve people (one from each tribe) to choose twelve stones from the middle of the river. With those stones, they were to build a monument at their campsite after crossing the river. Then the Lord says this: “In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones means?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.” God is telling them that this monument will remind them to tell their story, the story of the faithfulness of God toward Israel.
We also see the significance of remembrance at the Last Supper, when Jesus “took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you’” (Luke 22:19-20). Every time we receive communion, we are to remember Jesus, what He has done, and the story of His faithfulness.
Is it a practice in your life to sit and remember, and to thank God for who He is and what He has done? Do you sing and tell of the faithfulness of the Lord? Sometimes we can find ourselves worried about a bill we can’t pay, scared about a diagnosis from the doctor, lonely, ashamed of how we treated someone, and sure that God will not meet us in our pain and bring beauty out of brokenness. It’s in those times that we must look back and remember what God has done. Remember the times He was faithful when you didn’t think He would be. If you can’t remember, spend time with Him. Ask Him to remind you or show you where He was working. Ask your friends or family to encourage you and help you remember.
And when things are going well, remember. Write down your celebrations! Take pictures! Talk about the goodness of the Lord with your friends and family. Do not let weeks and months go by without reminding yourself of the goodness of God. This will serve as your foundation of thankfulness in the hard times.
Then, as leaders, let’s help our communities remember. Tell your story. Tell the story of your church. Write songs that help your community tell their stories. These can be stones of remembrance for you and your community, sparking conversation in the years to come about all that God has done. And they can serve as an encouragement to others to step into their story with trust that God will be, just as He has always been, faithful.