Throughout the course of human history, there have been days that have rocked the world--days that stood out with such significance as to be unforgettable. For citizens of the United States and many others, September 11 is such a day.
The nefarious deeds of a band of terrorists 15 years ago seared September 11 into our consciousness. Cries of "never forget" what happened on that day are unnecessary. We cannot forget. We will always remember.
But there is another kind of remembering that I need. On this day when I so easily remember the infamous acts of a few, I must work to remember the heroic work of many. I must remember the bravery, the selflessness, the kindness of those who banded together to love and minister to the wounded and the grieving. In the midst of great evil shone the light of great goodness, and that is what I choose to remember.
As I read the scriptures, I am struck by how many times God admonished his people to remember. Over and over He commanded the people of Israel to remember all that He had done for them. David sang, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all His benefits" (Psalm 103:2). As Jesus shared the last supper with His closest followers, He exhorted them, "Do this in remembrance of me" (Luke 22:19). We must remember.
Unfortunately, with our ability to remember can come a difficulty. Our minds can retain the bad as well as the good. We can cling to memories of suffering all too easily. Not just monumental evil occupies our thoughts; pain of any degree can come to mind with disturbing ease. We remember our wounds, the hurt we've suffered, the slights we've felt. And very easily--sometimes most easily--we remember our own sins and mistakes, the pain we've inflicted on others. Indeed, each of us sits beside our own pool of tears.
I am tempted to remember only the suffering, to focus on the pain. One of my greatest needs, then, is the process of developing a memory of redemption. I think of this as the spiritual discipline of remembering. A key practice for me has been looking at my own history from the secure place of knowing that I am God's beloved child, purposefully recognizing that He always has loved me and that He always will love me. If I start from that place of security, I can recall even the times of greatest suffering and see that God has always been present. I can see that His goodness has been constant, His love for me unwavering, His work in my life unending.
I believe and trust that if we start from a place of security as beloved children of God, "our remembering of past pain takes place with a hopeful heart. Christ, the crucified One who both understands and shares our suffering, lives beyond crucifixion. His living presence is constantly at work in every painful memory from the past, seeking all the time to bring forth another little Easter" (Trevor Hudson, Discovering Our Spiritual Identity, p. 42).
In remembering God's faithfulness throughout the past, I gain confidence in His continued faithfulness. Without God, facing the pain I've suffered and the pain I've caused can be crushing. But realizing that God has been present with me in every circumstance calms my mind. Recalling that God's love for me has never wavered comforts my heart. And knowing that God can redeem even the most difficult of circumstances gives me confidence to face the future. Looking through the lens of redemption, I can see that nothing is wasted.
As I think of the horrific events of 9/11, I remember the goal of terrorists is indeed to inflict terror. They seek to disrupt the lives of their enemies, to create chaos, to force people to live in fear. In short, they seek to drive us to our knees, thinking that will lead to our surrender to them. Instead, we can choose to be on our knees, surrendering to the Lord of our past, our present, and our future. Whatever comes, we can choose to remember and to remind one another of God's goodness and faithfulness.
Then, today and every day, we can say "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation!" (Psalm 68:19)
What about you? Do you need to practice the spiritual discipline of remembering?