I really struggle with my memory. Every day I rely on multiple to-do lists, notes scrawled on my hand, phone reminders and emails to myself. I’m laughed at for my obsession with setting alarms and a computer screen covered in post-it notes.
Memory is hard work.
But when it comes to an actual act of remembrance – an attitude, a physical response – it becomes more than an annoyance to forget. It becomes disrespectful. The beautiful poppies currently adorning the lapels of our shirts point to a far greater horror than anything our generation can comprehend.
How can we, born 70 years after the last world war ended, fully understand the loss of life given for our freedom? How can our remembrance know the depths of tragedy, in order to grasp how contemptuous our forgetfulness is?
The word ‘remember’ is mentioned 45 times in the NIV version of Psalms. Psalm 42 sees a writer in the depths of despair using the act of memory to sustain and give him hope: “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan.” Psalm 103 tells us we are like grass, forgotten by the field once the wind has destroyed us. And then there is Psalm 13, where the writer begs for recognition: “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?”
It’s clear to see that, like David in Psalm 13, our very being cries out to be remembered. Mercifully, these cries are answered. God knows us; he knows the depths of our sin and the cost it took to save us. He also knows that we continue to rebel against him. Yet, in Deuteronomy 31, we hear the incredible truth that: “He will never leave you or forsake you”. Jesus continues to assert in Matthew 10 that we are known so well that “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered”.
At this time of year, united in our humanity, we collectively stop to remember incredible sacrifice. We thank those who suffered indescribable situations with extraordinary bravery. We acknowledge the frailty of our existence in the most tragic of events and remember those who deserve our recognition.
Yet God chooses to remember every last detail about us, even those ones that are far from heroic. He stops to be mindful of us, not because of our achievements, but because it is He alone who rescues broken humanity.