My memory is not so good. I don’t mean the where-are-my-car-keys kind of memory (although when I lose my car keys, I do start to question my memory). I mean my spiritual memory. I have an amazing ability to forget God’s goodness and faithfulness to me. I’m not sure it’s anything to brag about, but it is remarkable how quickly my brain presses “delete” on those files that hold mountains of records about God’s unfailing love for me.
Passages like Hebrews 10:19-25 (and others) indicate that believers have always had the tendency to mis-remember, to get distracted (squirrel!), and to just plain forget. The author of Hebrews makes requests of his readers to “draw near,” “hold fast,” and “consider.” Three specific actions that are meant for the believers to do together as they live out their faith together; the words “we” and “our” make appearances in every single verse in this section. The last verse then makes a kind of negative assumption about all those actions, that the believers would be doing all those things at the same time they were “not forsaking” their meeting together. Evidently, when we are left on our own, our track record is even worse.
Maybe it was the isolation of the pandemic, maybe it’s the feeling that we all have been living more isolated from one another, illness or not, the last few years–whatever it is, I have been even more grateful for the weekly gathering of God’s people.
A dear older woman who has been on the sidelines of my life cheering me on for almost twenty years was recently moved to an assisted living facility. I happened to be just two rows behind her on her last Sunday in church before she relocated. She sang with arms outstretched to a “faithful forever” God whose “promises are yes and amen.” This was deeply moving for me because I knew not only that this was an incredibly difficult change for her, but I also know a bit about her adult life and it has not been easy. As her close friend told me that morning, this was the start of the “last chapter of her life,” and her presence was a powerful lesson that Sunday morning.
There is a couple that we see most Sundays on our way up the aisle to our seats. The wife has battled cancer, and when my husband was diagnosed with cancer last year, they have been such sweet encouragers to both of us. They ask how we are doing, and she can connect with my husband in a way that only other people who have gone through cancer can. She knows what my husband means when he says he has had a bad day, and she doesn’t offer him false positivity. Instead, they both continue to say and show all the ways God has been good to them in their own hard moments.
I see widows and widowers on my way into the worship service most Sundays. I watch people with heart-rending family struggles, wearying addictions, and frequent bouts of depression enter those doors to the sanctuary. None of those worshippers are false or hypocritical, trying to act like nothing is wrong. Their lives are a testimony to what their words say, that God is truly good to them, that he has faithfully carried their sorrows, and that they have experienced his sustaining love in the middle of darkness. They are, in a million different ways, holding fast and drawing near and considering how to encourage others. I am buoyed by seeing them and I am reminded of God’s faithfulness because of their faithful presence in that place each Sunday.
I am forgetful on my own. It’s too easy to get tunnel vision and only see my problems. God, in his graciousness, knew this about me and provided a way for me to see him at work in others’ lives when I can’t seem to see him in my own. And for that, I am awed and humbled and grateful.