A Better Memory

The almost-antique farm truck is a strange combination of burned metal and rust from years of weathering. I remember the fire that caught our neighbors by surprise one hectic week in a June far behind us. Deep into the rush and importance of harvest, the truck was crossing the recently-cut stubble to reach the combines. The dry straw sparked from the truck’s heat. Before cell phones and with the nearest fire department at least 20 minutes away, the field and the truck were a total loss.

 

For decades on my way home to visit my parents, I noticed the truck still sitting in the overgrown field in the same spot it had burned. As if frozen in time, or preserved as a monument.

 

That was a bad year. Wheat prices were falling, crops were poor, a late freeze threatened the young sprouts, an early drought endangered the mature stalks. Family farmers scratched their heads at their budgets and bills, and pressed forward anyway. Harvest came that dry summer, right on time.

 

Now I look at that truck and I remember the harvests of my childhood. The days stretching past midnight, the pulling together to beat a hailstorm or to fetch a machine part, the chance to be part of something bigger than the children we were. And I remember praying for rain every dinner most summers, believing it was our only financial salvation.

 

Remembering is a special gift. It lets us see our lives in hindsight, to get the best perspective on God’s constant care. We remember to see how high God can take us. And to never forget how low we can sink without Him. But it’s not easy for any of us.

 

Remembering is a special gift. It lets us see our lives in hindsight, to get the best perspective on God’s constant care. We remember to see how high God can take us. And to never forget how low we can sink without Him. Click To Tweet

 

HUMANS ARE FORGETTERS

 

God’s children have short memories. We forget the prayers He’s answered, and more importantly, the ones He didn’t that turned out better than our requests.

 

Like miracle-witnessing Peter who denied Christ, or the Israelites wandering in the desert, as life takes its toll on us, we lose sight of who He is. We already know how the Big Story ends, but in the middle chapters, we keep forgetting.

 

We already know how the Big Story ends, but in the middle chapters, we keep forgetting. Click To Tweet

 

All of Christianity is built on remembering. While fulfilled prophesies firm up our belief, recollections of God’s personal interventions feed our faith. God knew as much as we needed to remember, how easily we would forget. Holy Spirit invoked “remember” more than 150 times throughout scripture, five times more often than “believe” and twice as often as “trust.” He knew we’d need ways to recollect His care.

 

Early on in my heart failure journey, my husband encouraged me to keep a journal to remember the whirlwind we found ourselves in. The ugly first days I hesitated. I didn’t ever want to reread or relive what was playing out. I scrawled painful words on a hospital notepad, and then in a notebook a friend dropped by my ICU room. I considered it catharsis, an attempt to drain the ugly doubt and disdain for God from my heart. I expected to never open them again.

 

There is great value in remembering, perhaps more than we may realize. Especially during shaky times. Many of us are drowning in uncertainty as racial discrimination surfaces and a pandemic lingers, What can I do? One solid commitment we can make is to remember. As the headline flips to the next disaster or controversy or season, we can simply refuse to forget. The key to moving forward when so much is still unresolved: Commit to having a better memory.

 

The key to moving forward when so much is still unresolved: Commit to having a better memory. Click To Tweet

 

A NEED TO REMEMBER IT ALL

 

Sometimes I still drive slowly past the farm where I grew up. A new, unfamiliar family lives there now, tending to Mom’s crimson cannas and to my make-believe backyard world. On the way “home,” I still see that burned truck. Tears sneak up on me, knowing that this opportunity has vanished from our family’s future. Like most of their neighbors, my parents relinquished their land to be used for a huge windfarm. They sold their equipment and moved into a nearby town.

 

Turbines the size of jets now tower over barns and even over that charred farm truck, dwarfing their importance on the landscape. Still, Dad calls the windfarm a godsend. The monthly check provides more income than the farm ever could. But it was a painful change. Even as an adult child who lives states away, I detested seeing the land snatched up and the farmers moving away, or plowing now-tiny plots fractured by intrusive windfarm access roads.

 

Our word “remembrance” is derived from the Greek word hupomimnesko. Hupo- means to come alongside. The second part, –mimnesko, means to remind. Compounded, these words beckon us to come together and remind each other of the past. Some of what we should remember together is good: family celebrations, God’s provision, healings, peace. But some of what we need to recall is painful: death, periods of need, illness, strife. It all shapes us and draws us into a deeper understanding of God’s world and our place in it.

 

Some of what we need to recall is painful: death, periods of need, illness, strife. It all shapes us and draws us into a deeper understanding of God’s world and our place in it. Click To Tweet

 

Looking back on the early pages of my journal has helped me remember how bad it really was and how far we have come:

For a “healthy” adult who’s never been hospitalized (outside of childbirth), nurse tears feel unnatural. Also unnerving- Doctors choking on their words and walking away mid-sentence to keep their composure. We feel like we’re in the twilight zone. Jesus, walk here with us.

 

Despite so much hanging in the balance and so many prayers unanswered, it is necessary to remember the bad. Even Jesus asked us to remember the painful events of His death, over and over until He comes again. Remembering the hard will one day allow us to recognize God’s provision. Recalling negative times also spurs us to become better than our younger selves, as a person and as a community.

 

Remembering the hard will one day allow us to recognize God’s provision. Recalling negative times also spurs us to become better than our younger selves, as a person and as a community. Click To Tweet

 

NEVER AGAIN

 

I live a protected life, and like all mamas, I tried to protect my children. When we considered visiting the Holocaust Museum, I hesitated. I didn’t want them to see evidence of the worst of their world. But in order to never repeat it, they had to look at it.

 

In order to honor history and the Holocaust slogan, “Never Again,” we have to remember.

 

“To forget a holocaust is to kill twice,” wrote Noble laureate and survivor Ellie Wiesel.

Following a similar thread, UT Austin’s Dr. Anthony L. Brown says of racial injustice after discovering his students didn’t know about Rodney King:

 

“One of the most effective ways to mold public perception is to allow the past to fade from the consciousness of future generations.”

 

Erasing past pain makes all of today’s striving worthless. And it is one of the most effective ways to lose your faith, too.

 

We must remember the hard parts of our lives and our world. They make us wiser, better, closer.

 

Someday those mammoth wind turbines may sit rusted and motionless in a field as well. Some could see that as a failed experiment, as a sorrowful time when the family farm as we knew it disappeared from the southern Kansas landscape. But like the old truck in a burned-out wheat field, like the Holocaust Museum, like the racial injustice videos, like my old journal entries, we need to look at them. One day they will all be a reminder of how God provides a way when the way seems impossible to see. By recalling past pain, we continue to learn in this flawed world, and we are motivated to becoming more like Jesus.

 

He has promised to make all things new and just again one day.

He has so much invested in our future.

But for now, He’s counting on us to do some difficult remembering.

 

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6 thoughts on “A Better Memory”

  • 1
    Brad Grabs on June 16, 2020 Reply

    I love how you tie memories to such important lessons, Lori. Well said.

    • 2
      Lori Ann Wood on June 16, 2020 Reply

      Thank you, Brad. I think memories surface sometimes for a reason. I am grateful that they speak to you. Great to hear from you!

  • 3
    Cara on June 17, 2020 Reply

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, God-ward focus on trials and suffering. Bless you!

    • 4
      Lori Ann Wood on June 17, 2020 Reply

      Thank you, Cara.

  • 5
    Sharon Hazel on June 17, 2020 Reply

    Thank you for this reflection that remembering is part of moving forward. To be able to remember, to show our scars to others is testimony to God’s healing work.

    • 6
      Lori Ann Wood on June 17, 2020 Reply

      Love your imagery of scars! A perfect analogy to past pain, both as a community and as a person. Thank you for sharing!

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