Contributed by: Mark Schatzman – Mark is the congregational leader and teaching pastor for Mosaic, a Saturday night congregation of Fellowship Bible Church in Northwest Arkansas.
Our family only has a few holiday traditions that we practice between the dates of putting up Christmas decorations and taking them down. One of our most important traditions happens on New Year’s Eve at dinner. For the last 15 years, we’ve taken a remember tour together.
Each family member takes a 3×5 card and writes the current year on the front and the next year on the back. For the current year, I ask, “Where have you seen God’s hand of faithfulness in this year?” Every one writes down very specific things they remember.
Fun things always make the list quickly—a favorite trip, new friends…
Little things have found their way there—a new puppy, winning an award…
Painful things reluctantly make it—the puppy’s death, cancer and its treatment, tragic losses…
Big things always make the list—a major move, birth of a new child, graduations, a wedding…
We then turn the card over and ask, “What are you hoping God will do next year?” This is not the time for New Year’s resolutions. This is a time for day-dreaming, in a good way.
It’s a way of saying, “What do I hope God will let me write on next year’s card?” The card with cancer on one side had “Bike a century (100 mile ride)” on the other side. (It would take 4 more years for that to make it on a “past year” list.)
It’s all part of remembering. And remembering well is a critical part of living well. Biblical remembering looks backwards and forwards.
The Hebrew word for ‘remember’ is an important biblical word—zakar. It’s used 165 times and it means both to recall something and to make it known. Biblical remembering has two ideas: call it to mind… then call it out.
When it comes to the spiritual journey, zakar is a vital habit in walking with God. Over & over again, the Bible tells us to never forget to remember.
When Israel was about to embark on a new chapter in their national life with God, the first thing King David led them to do was remember. Victories were behind them, momentum was with them, and success was in front of them. But David insisted they not go forward until they had a good look in the rearview mirror. Remembering was so important that he wrote his instructions as a song and made them learn it:
“Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles and the judgments He uttered…He is the LORD our God… Remember His covenant forever, the word He commanded for a thousand generations…” (1 Chronicles 16:12-15 ESV)
What are we to remember? Don’t go forward until you zakar who God is and what He has done in your life. Why are we to remember these? Because they keep us from running into opposite ditches on the roadside.
On one side, remembering who God is and what He’s done keeps us humble in times of success. Before they entered the promised land, Moses told Israel to remember that it was God who led, fed, and protected them; otherwise they would fall in pride (Deut 8:17-18). A remember tour reminds us who the real Hero is. On the other side, remembering these truths about God keep us from getting bogged down during times of grief and loss (Ps 77:11). A remember tour reminds us that we are never alone and we are not stuck.
Remembering well is the raw material for creating values. For a family, it’s the stuff of legacy. For an organization, it’s the stuff of culture.
Remembering who God is and what He does protects us from pride and entitlement by fostering humility and gratitude. It keeps us from re-inventing ourselves in self-doubt because it brings a truer identity.
Remembering who God is and what He does gives joy, hope, and optimism because it reminds us that the One who was with us in 2013 will be with us 2014… whatever awaits us.
At our house, this year’s remember tour will launch a couple of days after Christmas when our adult children come home. I’ll pull out 15 years worth of 3×5 cards from our fire-proof box. We’ll reflect on hard times with joyful grief. We’ll laugh at a child’s perspective on life. Then we’ll remember that we are still children looking to the Father, and we will add more 3×5’s to the priceless treasure.
It’s a good tradition to remember.