Sometimes as I click along through my week just doing my thing a word keeps popping up in every conversation or situation. After hearing it a few times it’s as if that particular word sets off bells and whistles and fireworks in my head. When that happens I know God is trying to teach me something important.
I scoot up to the edge of my life and lean in a little to hear His still, small voice.
This week it’s been about remembering.
Friday night at the Relay for Life event
I had a conversation with someone I had not seen in years. We spent time “catching up” then she said, “I try to remember that God wants to use everything that happens in our life to make us holy—more like Him.” The statement seemed random and out of place to me considering the topic of our conversation. But I haven’t been able to forget it.
Sunday morning at church
Sunday morning my pastor instructed us to open our Bibles to Ephesians 2:11-13 as we continued our study through that book. He announced the title of his sermon: “Don’t Forget to Remember” and then we read:
11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
At this point the “light” came on in my head and I heard God speak. Remember, remember, and remember. But the lesson wasn’t over. I sort of thought it was. I connected the dots I could see—the two “remembering” reminders from Friday night and then the sermon. I smiled thinking about how cool God is and how intimately and personally He knows me.
We’re on the first leg of our journey. I was in the middle seat:-/ The man on my right talked the whole 2 hours about family and work. He said that at age 40 he experienced paralyzing anxiety because of P.O.W training he was in as a 17 year old army recruit. He said he remembered it every single day. Five years of counseling helped him through it. I can’t forget his story.
On the second leg of our journey I took one of the few seats left. I was in the middle again. The plane backed away from the terminal, stopped, and pulled back to the terminal. A sensor had sounded in the cockpit and they wanted to check it out before we took off. So rather than sit in silence I decided to get to know my new closest friends to my right and left.
“What do you do?” I asked the man on my right.
“I retired in 2009 as a New York City firefighter,” he said.
I don’t know about you but I thought of only one thing when I heard that. I sat there for a moment in silence. Then I asked, “Were you….” I couldn’t make the rest of the words come out.
“Yes,” he answered. We sat there for a few more minutes in silence. The topic of conversation changed to family and retirement and traveling. An hour and half later, after sitting on the plane with no power or air, (in the middle seat), they move us to a different plane. I didn’t sit next to him on the new plane but I could not forget him, his story, or that day we all remember.
But the lesson wasn’t over.
I ordered my Powerbagel and large coffee. He handed me my cup and directed me to the self-serve coffee station. I sat down, sipped my coffee, and checked email. A few minutes later he came over to my table with my bagel. As he handed it to me he said, “Here’s your bagel. I’m really sorry you had to wait. To be honest, I forgot about it so I put an extra one in there for you.”
I was struck by his kindness and honesty. The words “I forgot” came so quickly and easily for him.
I hate forgetting. I really hate forgetting important things. And I really hate admitting that I forgot. Usually, instead of admitting I forgot I hope no one will notice and if they do I try to justify it.
Lame. I know.
So many things are so easy to remember—unforgettable, you might say.
I can remember a person’s face, a statement made in a conversation, a story told by a stranger, a day that changed the world. I can remember my social security number, my driver’s license number, every address I’ve ever had. I can remember birthdays and numerous usernames and passwords. Remembering is a wonderful gift we’ve been given. I like to remember.
But is all that I remember all that I need to remember?
All that God wants me to remember?
When my pastor read that passage in Ephesians and said “Don’t forget to remember” I listened and took notes, and filed it away—proud of my “I-always-remember-because-I-write-it-down” self.
But God showed me the real me this morning through a guy at a bagel shop in a city a time zone away from where the lesson began.
“I forgot,” he said.
“You forget,” God said. You forget the very thing you must remember.
Remember that you were an “uncircumcised” Gentile.
Remember that you were separated from Christ.
Remember that you were excluded from the covenant and the promise.
Remember that you were without hope and without God in the world.
And most of all Remember…
But now, in Christ Jesus you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
God used 3 states, 4 days, and 5 people to say, “And don’t forget to remember”.