We need reminders. Our to-do-lists and calendars give us proof enough. We search for car keys. We use someone else’s phone to call ours. Then we listen through the house hoping it will reveal its location. I guess, too, that we’ve learned our forgetfulness the hard way. Lovers too easily forget why they fell in love, successful adults forget where they came from and entire generations can grow up with no memory of the wisdom an older one painfully fought to hold on to.
No wonder we can draw a blank when it comes to God.
“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” the Psalmist said.
“How do we get started?” we ask.
“Remember,” he answers. “Remember the wondrous works God has done,” (Ps. 105:4-5)
Jesus taught Peter about remembering. We too can learn. We can help others too. Let’s take a look.
When Roosters Crow
As a child, if I ever heard my Mom say, “Zachary Wayne,” I felt unpleasant. Kids require their full and formal names spoken when they forget something important like taking out the garbage. As a teen playing football it was my last name that fit the bill, like the time, as quarterback, I called,”time out” because we only had ten players on the field. “Eswine, did you remember to count yourself?!”I forgot to include myself as the eleventh player and my forgetfulness wasted a time-out.
As a follower of Jesus, Peter became committed to the grace of remembering. You notice this at once in his letters to others (2 Pet. 1:12-15; 3:1-2). But there is no condemnation or shame or in-trouble-feeling here. These are the reminders of grace from one who himself relies upon them.
After all, Peter would hear roosters crow the rest of his life. How does one overcome the constant reminder of his or her worst moments?
So, Peter commits to never stopping to bring to our remembrance the presence and provision of God. By reminding others he too takes hold of grace-memory. He reminds us that we are forgiven in Jesus; That we’ve been given his promises; That we have everything we need for life and godliness; That the ancient questions regarding where we came from, what our purpose is, why the world is troubled, what the remedy is, and what the future will look like, have been set before us in Jesus.
Sometimes we have to post-it-note our lives. We forget what our souls need us to remember. A married couple repeats their vows often. They lay in bed after covenant love-making. “All I have is yours,” they repeat to each other. They find each other after having hurt one another, not with abuse, but with the wound of ordinary moments. “I am yours and you are mine” they repeat They tell old stories to each other about their honeymoon, and about the time they made it through when they had no money for the mortgage, “I’m subject to you” they say to one another.
Lasting friendship is no different. Old friends tell old stories, but they don’t get stuck in them. New stories are born on the foundation of the remembered ones. Covenant lovers and lasting friendships never really “move on” from having to remember something true and present about God and about themselves and about their stories as Roosters repeat their daily work. Rather, we learn that the way forward through our days are made for such remembering. We humble ourselves and take up with oft repeated sayings, learning to see through the boredom of repeated graces into the safety it is to have them in the first place. As Paul said, “To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you,” (Philippians 3:1).
When critics were cruel and merciless to the famed preacher, Charles Spurgeon, his wife would place notes of promise around the house. She was his wife, yes, but also his friend and his sister in Jesus.
There is something truer and more lasting about us and about God than the roosters and critics that scratch into our mornings can tell us.
The roosters and we have a story, yes. But there is more to our story and to theirs. A critic’s voice isn’t the only one in town. Even if that critic is right, truths more ancient will have their way.
We need each other’s help to remember this.
Not like Job’s friends who use reminders to cover up their impatience, quick fix mentality and longing to stay in control.
What we need is a kind of grace reminding that is different altogether. This is why Jesus sent Peter to remind those he wrote to. This is why we gather in groups on Sunday mornings and through the week and why preachers open the same old book and rehearse the same old stories, like the one with Peter warming himself by a fire, denying that he knew Jesus, and how Jesus pursued him and recovered him. We repeat such grace histories as a way of being in the world. We pass them down, day by day. We repeat them to ourselves amid everything else the roosters of our day and in our world make a fuss about. Sometimes beneath the fuss we find the quiet again. We remember there the loveliness of Jesus and how it is that in him, we and all things are held together. We remember and we taste the presence of God again.
This kind of grace-repetition no longer seems to bore us. Somehow, this kind of daily looking back in order to stay wholly present, begins strangely but truly to bless us.
(For more, listen in to “The Spiritual Practice of Remembering,” 5/29/16, and/or look for part-two of this blog post)