I returned, triumphant from the grocery store.
Sometimes the feeling of going to the store and completing the list is a Herculean feat for those of us who, well, let's just say have issues retaining details. We take the list. We execute the list. We are the champions.
Did you get the carrots?
My wife's question awoke a great vacuum in my soul - a disturbance in the Force if you will - as I realized that the plainly-inked item reading "shredded carrots" had been completely ignored. I had a list. I had a mission. Mission incomplete.
We continued to talk and in our conversation I ended up throwing out a quote from Thomas Aquinas, "Beauty is that which, when seen, pleases." My wife grinned her beautiful grin and narrowed those glittering eyes and said, "You have stuff like that up there, it must be hard for the carrots to fit in." We laughed and it all makes sense.
Memory is critical in spiritual formation. Not because we have a list of things to "check off" in our holy habits. Not because God wants intellectually superior followers - if so, the twelve disciples were a bad call. No, in this case memory is not about keeping details straight or having information at recall but is:
The working memory of a person, namely God, and our experience with Him thus far.
Deuteronomy is, by it's name, a book of the "second instruction." It is Moses teaching the people of Israel, again, the path of God for them in the promised land they were about to enter.
However, this book is a book of memories. Over and over again the words of Moses are centered in stories of the past - stories of failure, stories of provision, stories of promise, and stories of presence. The word "zakar" - to remember - shows up repeatedly in the text and then there are several places where the people are asked not to forget.
Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. (Deut. 5:15)
Why does this matter?
If we forget what God has done, how can we pray for what God will do?
If we forget what God has taught, what reason do we have to engage the Scriptures?
If we forget what God has done in rescuing us, how can we appropriately serve and rescue others?
The memory of God sets our whole life in context - and to forget God is to forget the larger story. It becomes a wound, infecting and inhibiting our transformation into Christlikeness. Following Jesus, in and of itself, is based on the memory of how shabby our Kingdom was and how sufficient God's Kingdom has been ever since we walked into it.
My suggestion to you is to write a memory journal. Take time each day to recall something in the previous day or in past days where God moved, sustained, promised, or taught you. Write this event/events down in as much detail as you can come up with. Meditate on how you are different on this side of that memory. Pray that God will etch that memory on your brain - it will shape you and prepare you for challenges yet to come.
And don't forget the carrots.