I’m posting a little early on our Yes to God Bible study. Tomorrow will be a busy day. What with music lessons for the boys and our church’s Shrove Tuesday Pancake dinner…I didn’t want to be left out!
I’ve always thought it easier to look ahead than back over my shoulder. The possibilities of the future are much more inviting than the mistakes of the past. In chapter eight of our online Bible study of Jennifer Rothschild’s book Self Talk Soul Talk, Jennifer tells us, Forget Not His Benefits, O My Soul.
I find this chapter especially poignant as we prepare to enter into the season of Lent.
This time of year always brings me to my knees. As I reflect on my human failings, and meditate on the great price that was paid for my soul, I am filled with repentance and gratitude.
As a young girl, I took a quilt bought at a flea market, folded it carefully, and placed it at the foot of my bed. I told my friends that my grandmother made it for me. This was a lie; I never really knew either one of my grandmothers.
I so wanted a heritage of tender stories. The truth was, my stories were not happy ones. My stories left me empty inside. I wanted to run into the future and leave those painful memories far behind.
Looking back can be difficult for some. There may be hurtful things in our pasts, things we are ashamed of, or things we don’t understand. We want people to see us as we are now, not as we were then. We are tempted to hide our truths from others. But it is in sharing our stories that we become one people. We learn from the experiences of others, and we also grow closer when we reveal our weaknesses.
And God wants us to remember.
After cutting off the flow of the Jordan River so the Israelites could pass, He commanded Joshua to have the people set up twelve stones. The Lord said to Joshua: “…In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 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.” (Joshua 4:6-7)
Yes, God wants us to remember the good times and the difficult times. And what’s more, He wants us to share these stories so that they will not be forgotten. So that future generations will learn and understand what came before them. We cannot be afraid to look back.
But we must not fear looking forward either. The Lord did not tell his people to stay at the Jordan’s edge and gaze at the stones forever. If they had done so, they never would have made it to their promised land! Looking back is only beneficial when it strengthens us to move forward. As Jennifer says, “Remember what is profitable, whether good or bad…Ask God’s Spirit to guide you to profitable memories. Ask Him to help you wisely assign meaning to your milestones.”
We will not fear the uncertainty of the future when we remember the unfailing faithfulness God has shown us in the past.
Let’s build our futures on the goodness of the Lord. Let us share our stories with one another. Let us tell our children about His faithfulness in our lives. He is faithful. We must never forget that. Because we have a promised land to get to.