The Value of Reflection

Should setting New Year’s Resolutions be your primary goal for this week?

While it’s certainly important to set goals and think ahead (as discussed in last week’s main article), it should actually share the stage with something equally as important – remembering the past.

For those who base their lives on the Scriptures, there’s a strong and compelling balance between the two. But even if you don’t, there’s a valid message in this essay for you, too. These last few days of 2014 are the perfect time to remember the many blessings of this past year.

In the Scriptures, we are told – again and again – to remember. Remember the past, remember His Word, remember the great things God did for us, remember His ways…

And failing to remember – i.e., forgetting – continually got people into trouble.


The Role of Memories in Your Life

Memories weave your present and past together… they connect yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

What happens when we don’t remember? We forget, obviously.

To forget means to fail to keep in mind. Forgetfulness can be either innocent or blameworthy. In the Old Testament, it is generally the latter – God’s people forgetting the covenant, the law, their God.

In the New Testament, the word is sometimes used to mean forsake or let go, as in Philippians 3:13, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…”

Think of how frustrated you become when your child is forgetful. Ever said, “How could you have forgotten that? We’ve been talking about it for days!”

And how sad it is when someone loses their memory to Alzheimer’s or dementia, and can’t remember even their dearest relatives – painful for those forgotten.

Before we get into how to “remember” better, let’s look at a brief overview of what God says…


What Does the Bible Say About Remembering and Forgetting?

We are prone to forget God, His many blessings, and the people in our lives who help us.

The Israelites forgot how God led them out of Egypt, so they created golden calves for themselves and behaved in  lewd and sinful ways. They forgot.

In the second verse of Psalm 103, we’re told to “forget none of His benefits.” The word “none” is significant. The Psalmist goes on to detail numerous benefits.

The book of Deuteronomy was written to a young generation on the eve of their entry into the Promised Land – after the preceding generation had spent the 40 years prior wandering in the wilderness.

After admonishing them to observe all the statutes and judgments commanded by the Lord, the author goes on to say this in Deuteronomy 4:7 and 4:9-10:

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him? … (7)

Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen … but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb… (9-10)

The same idea is repeated in Deuteronomy 8:2, 8:11, and 8:18-19:

You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God led you in the wilderness these forty years… (2)

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments… (11)

But you shall remember the Lord your God… (18)

It shall be that if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods… I testify against you today that you will surely perish. (19)

Why the stern warning?

He’d just told them He was going to care for them in very special ways – multiplying their herds and flocks, silver and gold, and “all that you have.” The stern warning was intended to keep them humble, so they’d remember the One who gave them everything.

Verse 17 says,Otherwise you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’”

This is actually a repetition of a similar warning in chapter 6:

Then it shall come about when the Lord your God brings you into the land which He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you, great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the Lord

Apparently, God deemed it necessary to keep reminding us to remember Him!


He Also Commanded Us to Teach Our Children to Remember

We are commanded to teach our children – and to tell them about the godly heritage of generations past.

Deut. 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons…

Deut. 6:20 When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What do the testimonies and the statues and the judgments mean which the Lord our God commanded you? Then you shall say to your son…

Interestingly, these testimonies, statutes, and judgments are not necessarily passed down from the most recent generation; many are much older than that. Deuteronomy 32:7 says:

Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders and they will explain to you. (NIV)


What if your family lacks the godly heritage you’d desire?

This raises the important question of what to do if you haven’t received the blessing of a godly heritage to pass on to your children. If that’s the case, then remembering past generations won’t have the desired positive influence on your children.

My best advice is to seek out people who have been faithful to God and ask them to become mentors to you and your spouse, and pseudo-grandparents to your children.

Such people could be in-laws, uncles or aunts, grandparents, or older individuals from your church. If they homeschooled their own children, that’s a huge benefit, because they’ll be more in tune with what you’re experiencing as a homeschool family.

However, it can be difficult to identify older homeschool parents if their children are no longer living at home… because they’re no longer immersed in the “homeschool parent” lifestyle in the obvious ways you are.

Nonetheless, many of them are passionate about helping younger homeschool parents achieve their vision, and are willing to act as a sounding board, encourager, and mentor. Plus, they’re better able to see the big picture, and have (hopefully) gained some wisdom by working through the struggles of homeschooling and raising a family.

Incidentally, we’re instructed to remember the people in our lives also. The Apostle Paul consistently did this, and he also commended those people to others.

Philippians 1:3 says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you…”

Similar expressions are used in I Cor. 1:4, II Tim. 1:3, Phil. 1:4-5, I Thes. 1:2-3, and other passages. Clearly, Paul did not take for granted the people God had placed in his life.

Hopefully, like Paul, we remember the people who’ve helped, supported and encouraged us along our life’s journey. When faced with challenges, most people reach out to those who have helped in the past. We rely on those people to be there for us.


The Most Important Thing to Remember

For Christians, the most important thing we must remember is what Christ achieved on our behalf when He died on the cross. We are commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of Him.” Why? Because we’re so prone to forget what He’s done for us.

And we’re told to continue remembering till He comes back. An example of looking forward and looking back at the same time.

This cannot be merely a fleeting memory. We’re to live our lives deeply, purposefully… in line with that remembrance.

I want my husband to remember our anniversary, not to blow past it as if it’s merely another unimportant day. But that remembering brings with it an expectation of corresponding action, like dinner, a card, roses, or a romantic weekend. Not just a passing thought.


In Practical Terms, How Do You “Remember” Something?

We lead very busy lives, which makes it much easier for us to be forgetful. Therefore, we need to take a proactive approach to remembering.

God gave the Jewish people feasts, complete with remarkable symbolism, to help them remember Him and His acts of greatness. There are also many biblical accounts of people building simple altars to help them remember a particular victory or deliverance.

Paul used his pen.

Today, we have photos. Words. Mementoes.

Ever owned a trinket that reminded you of a special trip or activity? It may have little monetary value, but great value in your eyes. That’s a memory.

When you experience a particularly profound event, try to capture it – in words and/or pictures.

In 1980, we were a broke young couple with twin toddlers, and our only car broke down. It would’ve cost hundreds to fix it (thousands at today’s prices). We’d made a commitment to avoid going into debt, and we didn’t have money to fix it. For two months, we didn’t own a working car.

Around the same time, a new bus route started three blocks from our house, and went to within one block of my husband’s job. We borrowed a car to buy groceries a couple times. And waited. And waited…

Two months later, a friend told us his parents were selling a car. We asked him how much they wanted for it. He didn’t know, but promised to ask. He came back and said, “They want you to name a price. They’re moving out of state and this car left them high and dry a couple times. They don’t want it.”

So, we offered them $250 (no kidding!), they accepted it, and we drove that car for 65,000 more miles with no problems. All it needed was a new battery. We sold our defunct car for $125, paying a net of $125 for 65,000 miles of transportation. We’ve never duplicated that car bargain. But God provided a $125 car in a unique way. And we’ve never forgotten it.

Stories like that one remind us of God’s faithfulness. He’s come through for us in the past, and He will again.

Sometime during the next couple days, start a mealtime discussion by asking each member of your family to share how he remembers God’s faithfulness to him and to the family during the past year. Often, others remind us of things we’ve forgotten. You could preface your question with a few comments about why we should remember.

If possible, capture those memories with photos. Write those stories down. A written story makes it easier to remember in the future..

As the saying goes, “The weakest pen is stronger than the greatest memory.” Use it to your advantage.

And, as you set goals for 2015, do it from the viewpoint of remembering the best of 2014. Remember the past, and you’ll know how best to look to the future.

Let Your Voice Be Heard!