Summer 2009 is finally here. I just finished my junior year of college, and I'm now trying to mentally prep myself for the fact that I'm now a senior in college. It's a little bizarre to me to think that a year from now I will be graduating and looking at the rest of my life from a very different perspective. As a result of this realization, I have been experiencing several moments of nostalgia.
For instance, a couple days ago I went to my old high school's graduation. Watching this year's seniors graduate was entertaining. The little antics they pulled and listening to the speeches that were fumbled through was a good reminder of the innocence and humanity behind this formal event. It also reminded me of how much I treasured my own graduation at the time and how big of an event I thought it was. Now, graduating is a big deal, but it was a bit comical for me to remember how much thought I put into it, and how much thought is put into it every year. It was a big moment for us, and looking at the big picture, graduating high school is a big and necessary step that leads to much bigger and better things.
Last night I also got the chance to play in the alumni vs. current-students soccer game with my old high school. It was such a fun game, and yes the alumni won (I had to include that...haha... although I also have to add that I was really impressed with the current team and I can't wait to see how they do in the fall). It was also fun to see all the old teammates and remember the fun times we had and the memories we made. "Kick it to the cotton-pickin' corners!"
Needless to say, I've been reflecting a lot about how I got to the place I am today. In a couple days I'll be driving out to California to spend my summer in Los Angeles ministering to the poor and homeless. When I think about how I got to make this decision, how I'm at this place in my faith where I want to spend my summer like that, or how gracious God truly is to allow me to participate in the work He's already doing, I tend to think back on the climatic events in my life and faith that have led me here.
What's the point? It's good to remember. In fact, reflecting on the past is so important to move rightly into the future. It's why we have history classes in our schools; that is, we remember our successes and failures so we can build and do things right from then on. From a biblical worldview, we also see how God intervened in those times and brought us through trials.
As I thought about this, I remembered a chapter in the book of Nehemiah. At this point, Nehemiah and the post-exilic Israeli community have rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem, accomplishing a tremendous feat for the Israelite nation. There are many great things that come from this, but one highlighted factor is God's hand in the completion of the wall and his faithfulness to Israel despite how they fell away from him and worshiped other gods.
Chapter 9 shows the Israelites worshiping God and praising him with a prayer of confession offered by the Levites. This is such a great example of prayer for us today! The Levites begin re-telling the history of Israel, starting with Abram and moving all the way to the present day. They praise God for the way he shows his compassion on Israel. They reflect on how gracious he has been towards them. They exhibit a little bit of nostalgia by remembering the great things that God has done. (Seriously, go read this chapter. It's incredible, and a great model for confessional prayer.)
Now get this... After praising God for speaking to Moses on Mount Sinai, they say this, starting in verse 16:
"But they, our ancestors, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them... But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love" (Nehemiah 9:16-17a; my emphasis added).
What a revealing and potent statement... the Israelites failed to remember what God had done for them. Inevitably they ended up worshiping false gods and falling away from their true Creator. If you ever read the books of Judges and Kings you will see how often this happens. It blows my mind to think that they could ever forget what God did for them!! It's not everyday that you're brought out of slavery in Egypt and given the Promised Land!
But as I thought about Israel and their mistakes, I started to feel very convicted that I do the same exact thing. I fail to remember the miracles God has performed in my own life. I fail to remember the incredible moments and experiences of God's love that I've had in my life. I walk right back into sin, forgetting how God has already forgiven me for this before.
I realized at this moment that I need to create a habit of reflection. I need to intentionally remind myself of the work God has done in my life. It is so easy to forget if we don't! It is so easy to look at Israel's mistakes and wonder how they got so dumb without looking at our own lives for the same mistakes.
What I am calling for is a renewed spiritual discipline of reflection. Take time everyday to remember what God has done. If you've been prophetically spoken over, write down those words and look at them often. If you've experienced God's presence in an amazing way, bring yourself back into that glorious moment and feel Him once again. Don't let yourself forget!