Today's piece by Jen Pollock Michel snagged me up in my own faithlessness. Remembering God's workings from yesterday gives us courage for today and hope for tomorrow.
By Jen Pollock Michel
"Keep your sunglasses on."
When I had asked a friend about dropping our firstborn off to college, this was the only advice she offered.
This month, our daughter graduates from high school. Two shorts months later, we move her into her college dormitory six hours away. In one sense, it's been eighteen years that we've been preparing for this goodbye, raising Audrey to assume broad-shouldered independence (and do her own laundry). However, the prospect of her absence is like a blindsiding, sudden loss. I simply can't entertain the thought of not hearing her fly up and down the silver keys of her clarinet, returning again and again to the trickiest parts of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, deaf to my summons to dinner.
In the earliest years of having five young children, the noisy days blurred one into another. It was a strict cycle of rinse and repeat: nurse the babies, feed the oldest three, make sure we all had enough clean underwear. I had wanted to spend more time writing during that busy season of our lives, and I had tried starting a blog. I gave it up, however, after the third post in which I'd mixed up modifiers, confusing whether I had wiped the bottom of my child or my husband. Years later, after our youngest twin boys started preschool, a few mornings afforded some quiet, and I started to write again in the bright, sunny porch office at the front of the house. A dam released; the words came in torrents.
"I think God's asking me to start a blog," I told my husband, Ryan, on a fall afternoon as we walked, the kids racing ahead of us in our neighborhood ravine. Although I was sheepish to admit the idea, fearful of the self-preoccupation wrapped up in that desire, I realized how much of Israel's sin was bound up in the fear that resulted from spiritual forgetfulness. I didn't want to make their same mistake; I felt the acute need to keep my story.
Psalm 78 speaks to the malady of Israel's spiritual amnesia, opening with a commendation to pass down stories from generation to generation "so that [the children] should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." To forget was to tempt the fate of stubbornness, a sin into which previous generations of Israelites had fallen. To fail memory was to ensure hearts that were not steadfast and spirits that were not faithful to God.
In their forty years of wilderness wandering, the Israelites lived the rebellion of chronic forgetting: "They forgot his works and the wonders he had shown them." God had delivered them from Egypt with irrefutable feats of glory. The plagues. The parting of the Red Sea. His people had danced on the banks on that great body of water where the bodies of Egyptian soldiers had washed up. God had led them by a pillar of cloud by day, a tower of fire by night. He'd split rocks in the wilderness to give "them drink abundantly as from the deep." And yet, when their stomachs grumbled, they doubted the power and provision of God. "Can God spread a table in the wilderness?" They failed to remember, which is another way of saying they failed faith.
What might have been different for Israel if they had rehearsed their story, if they'd made it their regular practice to remember all that God had done on their behalf? Looking back might have made all the difference for moving ahead. If they could only have remembered how often God had been faithful, how often God had heard their cries and provided for their needs, they could have trusted him whenever fear brought them to the brink of despair.
To keep our stories is one way to keep faith. Whether we write regularly in a journal or simply share aloud the stories of God's past faithfulness with family and friends, we find the help and hope we need for our present struggles. By remembering the bread God provided yesterday, we learn to count on our daily bread today. This "remembering" is what I needed to do as the demands of parenting changed and I made time to record my reflections. It's the same kind of "remembering" that I do even now in preparation for our first to fly the nest.
As I feel my own heart wrenched by the letting go, I remember this: there is no season of parenting in which God has abandoned me, and I don't expect he'll start now.
Jen Pollock Michel is the author of the new book Surprised by Paradox as well as Keeping Place and the 2015 Christianity Today Book of the Year, Teach Us to Want. Jen lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and five children. She is a regular contributor for Christianity Today and Moody Bible Institute's Today in the Word.
Adapted from Surprised by Paradox, copyright 2019, Jen Pollock Michel, Published by IVPress, used with permission.