You know… many times God tells us to forget. Like the former things that we have no reason to recall because He is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:18-19). Or, like forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead (Phil 3:13-14). Or, like forgetting how we used to walk on in this world before we started walking it with Him (Acts 2:38).
But, other times He calls us to remember. As in remember all the ways He’s met us exactly where and when we’ve needed Him most throughout our stories. Like, when the Israelites kept grumbling against Him and His plan for rescue from Egypt and into a full life in the Promised Land… that 11 day trip that actually became a 40 year long wilderness walk. Well, in the book of Deuteronomy, God, through Moses, told them to remember… to remember all the ways He’d met them, rescued them, and provided for them. Their stiff necks made looking up to God and remembering back on His past provision next to impossible.
Oh Father, forgive us for we can be a stiff-necked people.
And yet, remembering where He’s brought us from, can actually help us get through times of our own clouded, wilderness-vision living. Sometimes the very answer to our suffering, is the simple act of remembering.
Yes, remembering God’s goodness in our past could be the thing that can cause our unanswered prayers of today to seem only briefly delayed ones…
Or, wrong turns to seem only short-term detours…
Or, straight up dead ends to seem only beautiful vistas…
Or, better yet, invitations to take some fun, off-roading adventure.
Because, the truth is, when we can’t see God’s goodness for the bad we perceive around us… we are the one with the clouded vision. The wilderness-living vision. When we can’t see how any good can come from the parts currently playing out in our stories… well, that may be exactly the time to search our stories for the best parts up to now.
See, remembering He is good ALL the time, requires us to remember how infinitely good He’s been in our past and darkest times.
So, for weeks I’ve been remembering because for months I’ve been stuck in some wilderness-vision living of my own story. And, I’ve found that remembering much of His faithfulness, helps my faithless, wilderness-vision begin to vanish. To be sure, there is a measure of faith we each get (Romans 12:3)… but, there’s also the matter of His ability to accomplish more than we could ever ask or imagine according to HIS power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). And, because He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6) and because, The One who calls you is faithful and will also do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24)… I want more faith.
More of the faith-flourishing vision to overtake the cloudy, wilderness-living vision.
So, since I can’t seem to find the faith I once had, I will remember and stand firm on the faithfulness of the God Who has me… and, has held me and my story from the start.
Remembering When My Heart and His Story Collided… A Testimony of Sorts.
It’s been a little over twenty years ago now that I was swept into a love story I could have never imagined, let alone written. I kinda see it in three separate parts, each with their own twists and turns, but all showing the relentless love of a very Gracious and Merciful God. The first two really showcase His unwavering faithfulness and goodness, which make skimming through their details difficult, but for the sake of space, this post will focus on the last, most recent part.
At the tender age of 22, after living the first half of my story emotionally challenged, perpetually overwhelmed, and spiritually lost (an understatement really… if it was in any way the reckless option, or simply the wrong thing to do – I likely did it), I found myself in a season that brought a first date, a pregnancy, a relocation, a husband, and a newborn all in the span of ten and a half months. You read that right… 10 1/2 months. It was bananas. Truly.
But, as I’m remembering, I see with 20/20 vision that it was this very “bananas season” that brought me face to face with the God of the Universe in Jesus Christ and when I – quite literally – began to hope for the first time. I remember how Christianity, as presented in The Gospel, was both wonderful and welcome news, but also a lot for me to accept. And, I remember how God surrounded me with an extremely patient, gracious, and faithfully loving sister and church family who continued loving me through all my ups and downs… and, throughout the couple years it took for me to accept this message of saving grace, leading to my repentance and salvation. In the end, it was truly all the beautiful, messy, mixed-up, gloriousness of new love and my heart felt like it was finally at home.
And, I’m remembering how God loves us through His people…
During the years that followed, I remember how I loved God to the best of my ability, (mostly) believed He loved me, and was living out my faith the best I knew through church, studies, women’s conferences, music, sermons, service/giving, training my tots, prayers, quiet times… basically all the good and important building blocks of the faith. And, thankfully, I remember that each successive year did bring with it a new level of intimacy and understanding about Him, plus many answered prayers, required rescues, learned lessons, and more than enough of His good and perfect gifts (James 1:27). The sanctification process was having its work…
And, I’m remembering how God loves us through His perfect timing…
But, I also remember that eventually something started to feel off. And, unfulfilling. Leading to much discouragement, lots of doubt, and honestly, more than a bit of boredom. And, I remember a point where I began to feel like there must be more to walking with the God of this Universe than what I was experiencing. I remember feeling like I was missing something.
I remember feeling only half in on this full-time story.
Because, I also remember that I was living a life defined by fear, not faith. And, I remember how broken I was because of it… even the place I was when I realized it. The Panera Bread parking lot.
And, I’m remembering that God brings purpose in our pain…
See, I remember being certain I possessed a saving faith for Heaven, but I had begun to notice a lack in any real believing faith for the Here and Now. Because, despite all my best efforts, my life did not seem to bear much of that Spiritual Fruit God’s Word says should characterize a follower of Christ. Quite the contrary, mine was not only short on fruit, it was actually producing a regular bumper crop of often immobilizing fear that motivated all sorts of negative habits, actions, and beliefs. (A nice way of describing my ugly sin.) You name it, I feared it…
An illness? Check. Heartbreak? Check. My children’s safety? Check. Not living up to expectations? Check. Betrayal? Check. The wrong political party? Check. A government collapse? Check. A financial crises? Check. Bad theology? Check. A car crash… a plane crash… divorce… death… a break in… a bad look… a bad thought… a bad opinion… non organic food… chemicals… germs… heights… bugs… check. Check. CHECK! CHECKKKKKK!!! I feared your thoughts. I feared their thoughts. I feared my own thoughts.
I seemed to fear everything BUT the only thing that was to be feared. The LORD. (Psalm 2:11, 19:9, 33:8, 34:11, 86:11, 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10; Jeremiah 5:22)
And, I remember that it was this fear that motivated all of me… my decisions and my heart. It was simply a part of who I was. Who I’d always been. Before Jesus. After Jesus. My life was too stuck on circumstances. Too others centered and not at all Cross centered. Only what I could see. And, all that I seemed able to see was all that seemed able to hurt me. The absolute worst part of it was a strong knowing that Jesus was simply not enough for me when the fear was bound all around me.
Back to the parking lot…
There I sat, nearly four years ago now. I had just had lunch with my sweet pastor and his wife… trying to explain this fear to them. They shared scripture and counsel and prayers and I wept. See, I’d asked to meet with them because I’d been caught slap in the middle of this all too familiar place of immobilizing, all-consuming fear over some perceived (read: not even real!) negative situation I felt certain I’d soon face… and fail to survive with any amount of discernible faith. It was ultimately never to be, but you can’t tell irrational fear this. Anyway, I remember being so frustrated at myself and my lack of faith… feeling utterly useless, totally self-absorbed, and completely sick to death of living that way.
But, sitting in that hot stew of self-pity, I remember that something unfamiliar started to take shape.
I slowly began to get this very strong sense that living my life as usual was no longer possible and a mental picture began to emerge in which I could visualize the proverbial fork in the road, with two clear paths. One of them was the one I’d been walking on where God was certainly present, yet far off at a distance and quite untouchable. The other path, though, was brighter somehow and it clearly held God’s Presence. As I pictured myself on that path, I was enveloped by Him. He was like the air… behind, beside, and right out in front of me… but, also far up ahead, leading the way. This path seemed wider, too… more welcoming, and offered an overwhelming sense of peace.
Yet, this path also frightened me. Surprise. Simply because fear was all I’d ever really known. The thought of walking a path without it seemed dangerous. Reckless, even. It was my strength, my motivation, my defense mechanism. It was, as God would later show me, my idol. But even I knew at that moment, it was also a liar and I remember clearly this sense that if I wanted to keep moving forward with God, I needed to repent of following fear and switch paths.
Out of sheer exhaustion, (and with more than a little anger, because that’s what happens when I’m afraid), I cried out to God for forgiveness, then informed Him that I could not step one foot onto that peaceful, wider path until HE removed all the fear I felt surrounding my current one.
And, I’m Remembering God meets us exactly where we are, yet doesn’t always give us what we want…
So… He did… NOT remove the fear. Nope. He sure didn’t. Not any of it. But, that’s the very best part and the beauty in all the remembering. Though it certainly didn’t feel so very best or beautiful at the time. I also remember that for the next few years, He kept up all the pressures that led to all the fear, then answered all the fear by walking me right through it ALL. Every single step.
And, I remember how, like a life line, I clung to Him, through Jesus and The Holy Spirit, for those three years while He walked me straight to His Word, and I – quite honestly – fell in love for the first time. See, before I really only loved that I was forgiven. I loved that I had hope for a future. I loved that I had a secure eternity. I loved having a community that shared my beliefs. I loved feeling like I knew the truth. I loved that feeling I got during some great worship time or at church. I loved feeling that I could take on the world after an awesome retreat… until I got home and was thrust back into real life marriage/kid/home chaos, that was.
But I was not, however, in love with Jesus. I was not in love with His Word. I was not in love with the idea of knowing Him better. I was not in love with the idea of building His Kingdom or telling His Story.
And, though I can’t exactly explain why, I’m remembering something changed. Maybe it was simply the act of repenting of these sad truths and asking for and trusting the Holy Spirit to do His Perfect Counseling. Whatever it was, I remember that Scripture finally came alive like never before. As I clung to His Word, I was being taught the truth about His Character, His Love, and my identity as His child. And, before I knew it, I was falling in love with Him.
I remember other things, too… like how He placed precious people in my life who were willing to point me to Him, over and over again. How He showed me how to hear and recognize His voice, His truth, His path… instead of those I’d been hearing. How He taught me the beautiful gift of waiting and how to seek His presence during the wait. How He showed me over and over again the depths of His unconditional love and faithfulness and how perfectly satisfying it is to rely on Him and Him alone. How He gave me direction, hope, and promise after promise in His Word. How He changed what my heart loved… taking away many things I thought I needed but were actually only second hand scrap compared to a heart full of love for Him. And how, through it all, He led me into such intimately sweet places to show me the depths of His grace, mercy, and truly personal love for me, that my heart didn’t even have the capacity to receive Him wholly, let alone, find the gratitude to worship Him fully for the gift of it all. And, how all I could do was simply bask in the beautiful embrace of being completely known, yet divinely loved.
I’m remembering He gives us exactly what we need.
Faith for Today
See, I would do well to remember right at this moment how He taught me to keep looking at Him and not the things that cause the fear. And, how His rescue is not always in the removal of the hard and scary things, but in walking right through them hand in hand… even sometimes kicking and screaming. And, how He didn’t allow me to run from the places that caused the fears, but pushed me into them, then right through them into victory. And, how He didn’t let me pretend and pray away nor pace and play hide and seek with any fears, but instead showed me how to cover them His Word… His Truth. And, how he showed me that fear was simply having a view of something without Him and His Grace present. And, how He taught me never to leave Him out of ANY equation.
And, how He alone proved to be my strength, my motivation, and my defender.
Because, while I’m remembering His Faithfulness in my yesterday, I can stand firm in faith today (Isaiah 7:9).
But, we should also remember this… we can’t stand firm when we don’t know The Truth. See, our lives are not what many of us have perceived them to be. Even sometimes we in the church get this wrong. The perfect Christian story does not involve us coming up with the perfect life plan, then following that to some perfect final destination here on earth and then, at some perfect ripe old age, end up in Heaven. Yes, we will eventually become perfect and our final, forever-future is perfectly secured in our Father’s House. But, we actually follow a Person there… not a formula… not our hearts… not a denomination… not a doctrine. The only thing we follow there is Jesus. And, In Him, is where our lives are found (Colossians 3:3). In Him alone, is hidden the story we were destined to write.
So, if you, like me, have anything that causes you to run from your story found only In Christ, then I would encourage you to repent of it. Also, remember that you have an enemy keeping you from writing that story and he is determined to steal, kill and destroy your part in it (John 10:10). Every day. See, this enemy of our souls lives to deceive us. He lives to divide us from the story we were born to tell. Many times stopping us from even seeing we have a part to play in The Story at all. Our enemy wants us to believe God is not for us… that He will not meet our needs… that we are on our own, tossed back and forth by the storms, subplots, scares and scars we experience in our stories. His greatest win would be to have a child of God believe that we are to live out of the pride in our hearts, which would ultimately bind us in shame and fear. However, remembering Jesus is bigger AND has the final say in defeating our enemy, will go far in making sure he doesn’t get to write more than a few pages.
And, by remembering Jesus is bigger and better, I may quit seeking to write my own faithless story when I’m stuck in the cloudy, wilderness.
So, whether your story is bound up in fear, or bound by something else, we are all bound to be loosed by Heaven when we cry out in repentance to be set free and surrender to the true freedom that comes from binding ourselves to The One we were created for.
Here’s to Happily Remembering When and Faith-Flourishing Vision for Today!
Don’t remind me.