Remember to Remember
The halls of our memory recall the sights we've seen even though they are not before our eyes, sounds we've heard even though they are not in our ears, tastes we've tasted even though the food is not in our mouths, smells we've smelt even though they are not in our noses, and objects we've touched even though they are not in our hands. Yet, these memories are partial. We don't see the mountain in our memory the same as we saw physically. We don't hear the sound of the waves lapping the shore with the same richness of when we first heard it. The taste, smell, and touch of the last meal we ate are much fainter in our memory than in our experience of them.
Memories fade and we forget. But most of the time, this forgetfulness only hides the memory until something from outside the mind retrieves it.
Take for instance remembering the name of someone you met for the first time. I know I’m not alone when I say that I often forget the name of the person I’ve just met by the time our conversation is over. Either I need for everyone to wear nameplates, or I need to make it a habit of reintroducing myself at the end of the conversation. Maybe I need both – and that is the pressing reality of memory, we are in need of reminders.
The need for reminders is not new. Early in the history of Israel, this reality was abundantly clear. Moses had just relayed the commandments of God to the people when he commanded them not to forget. “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11). They were to observe feasts of remembrance, write God’s Word on the doorposts of their house and gates, bind God’s Word to themselves, and teach it to their children throughout the day. However, their tendency was to forget, and as the story unfolds, they forgot again and again.
To forget God today carries the same problem it did then. Moses warned that if the children of Israel forgot God, they would soon say, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17). When they forgot God, they resorted to pride. When they forgot God, they forgot that is was He who gave both power and wealth to them. So it is with us, when we forget God, we resort to pride.
Pride fills the void forgetfulness leaves. When the truth that God providentially cares for our every need is hidden from our mind, what are we left with but to believe that we must take the matter into our hands? When we forget that salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8), we are left to think that salvation must come by our hand. There is nothing to stop pride from taking over. It is always “crouching at the door” (Genesis 4:7).
Even our attitude towards being reminded can be prideful. How often do we tune out the pastor because he is teaching a very familiar passage, covering the points we already know? How often do we skim through the remainder of the devotional because we already know what it will say? How often does our mind wander as our mouths sing the familiar hymn? Pride is always crouching at the door.
The Psalmist understood the power of memory against pride. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Reminders are a bulwark against pride.
We must embrace the means of ordinary grace. They are for our remembrance. When we listen to Biblical teaching, read a devotional, sing a hymn, or discuss theology, we are not only doing it to learn something new, we are doing it to be reminded. The Lord’s Supper is a prime example of a deliberate reminder of the most vital event to our faith.
Much of what it means to keep the faith is to be reminded of the truth in which our faith is formed and grounded. Even our sanctification comes through reminding. Paul charges Christians to be “transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). You are not always so much in need of learning something new as you are in need of remembering what has already been taught.