It’s Thanksgiving and the nation will pause for 24-hours from our frantic pace to eat turkey and watch football. Traditions have a way of pinning down “meaning” and choking the life out of it. So, how many will take time to do what the holiday is actually named after, and “give thanks”? How many will even remember why we cook the turkey and gather with family? Remembering is a powerful thing.
Jesus and Remembering
On the night before his death, Jesus asked his disciples to always remember him (Matt. 26:26-28). He gave them a simple tangible way to do it. A piece of bread. A cup of wine. It’s like my flesh and my blood that I’m pouring out for you, he said – So, when you eat the bread and drink the wine you will remember me. Powerful stuff.
Think about the word “remember.” What does it mean? It comes from the Latin word, rememorai, which is a compound of two Latin words, re which means “again,” and memorai which means “be mindful of” – it means “to be mindful of again,” or “to bring again to the memory.”
We now know a lot more about how the brain actually works, but there was, in ancient thought, the idea that memories were things we could capture and recapture in the mind. And, they believed that this was a beneficial thing to do. It had a healing effect.
Remembering and Healing
It’s an interesting coincidence that (in English) the word “remember” is made up of two words, “re” and “member.” That could also signify that the world beats us up and tears us apart, piece by piece, but when we take time to reflect, meditate, or be mindful – when we take time to remember – it pieces us back together.
We are “dismembered” by life, and “remembering” puts us back together – it “re-members” us.
Six Ways Remembering Heals
Here are six ways “remembering” plays a powerful role in our lives.
1. It connects us to our past.
Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper’ … (Gen. 32:9).
There is an important and sacred journey we should all take “back to our country.”
The people who came before us and paved the way are extremely important (Heb. 12:1). It’s easy to forget them. They may be dead and gone – out of sight, out of mind – but their legacy continues to have an impact on our lives.
There is a sense of fulfillment and wholeness when we remember all those who worked so hard to make our lives better. There is a sense of healthy identity when we stay connected to our ancestors – to their wisdom and to the way they practiced their faith.
The hymn It is Well with My Soul was sung at my Grandfather’s funeral, my Dad’s funeral, and will be sung at my funeral. There is something strong and deep and grounding about singing the songs that our ancestors sang. Nothing wrong with the new! There’s just something equally special and powerful about the old.
2. It reminds us of where we’ve been, and how far we’ve come.
… we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:32).
It’s important to pay attention to where we’ve been and to celebrate our accomplishments along the way.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous thing. But when we take sober stock of where we have been it can be both enlightening and uplifting.
There are accomplishments and advancements in your life that should give you a sense of healthy pride. There are growth points in your life that you can point to and feel a sense of accomplishment.
The ancient cultures did a great job of celebrating these milestones. We have lost some of that. It is great for your self-esteem and your sense of self-worth to remember some of the great things you have done!
3. It affirms the way God worked in our lives in the past, and therefore, the way he will work in the future.
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).
Joshua was imploring the people to remember all that God had done for them in leading them out of slavery — the way he had saved them at the Red Sea — the way he had provided daily in the Wilderness.
Now that they were entering the Promised Land it was critical that they remember how God had worked in the past in order to fuel their faith in the future.
God is good. It doesn’t always feel that way when you are overwhelmed by the journey. You don’t always see God’s footprints in the sand when you’re in the midst of the trial, tear-filled eyes shut tight in pain.
That’s why it’s so important, every once in a while, to turn around, open your eyes, and marvel at how God was working all along the way. He never left you. He never gave up on you.
Remembering that infuses you with hope for the future. Nothing can separate you from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39). Paul wrote that line out of a hard-earned experience. You can believe it by reviewing its truth etched in every trial and every tear of your past.
4. It teaches us where we went wrong, and how we can do better.
In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “ ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving” (Matt. 13:14).
Jesus described something fundamental to the human condition. We are always seeing but never perceiving — never really understanding — never really learning.
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Not sure who first said that, but it’s true. The only failure in life is the failure to learn from your mistakes.
It’s important to remember your success (see #2), but it’s also important to remember your failures – not in a negative way, to drag you down – but in a positive way to remind you that God still loves you exactly the way you are.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
God uses every experience of your life – the good, bad, and ugly – to shape you into the person he created you to be!
5. It forces us to confront our demons.
After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it [the demon] out?” He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer” (Mark 9:28-29).
The past has a powerful hold and its grip can be suffocating and debilitating when we try to bury it. Jesus said that we would discover the truth and it would set us free (John 8:32). Later, he proclaimed himself to be the truth (John 14:6).
In Jesus you come face to face with the truth – the truth about yourself – the truth about those around you – the truth about meaning and purpose.
It’s only when we look back at every experience of our lives through the prism of Jesus that we discover the truth. In that discovery, all demons are exposed to the light and we see them for what they are – pitiful, pathetic, and powerless.
6. It makes us thankful.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1).
Jesus knew the powerful role of remembering. Jesus continues to heal us every time we have the courage to “be mindful.” Jesus pieces us back together every time we break the bread and drink from the cup of his healing love.
And for that, we shout hallelujah and thank you Jesus!
Take time this Thanksgiving to laugh and play and eat and most of all … to remember.