I have an annoying habit of forgetting where I put my keys, gloves, wallet or any other item that I need to find quickly as I am about to leave the house. To help me with this problem, my thoughtful wife even installed a shelf at the end of our hallway with color-coded boxes for each member of our family to put these kinds of items in (I guess I may have passed on this genetic malfunction to my boys as well). Yet I still can’t seem to find what I need when I need it.
This problem of forgetfulness is also a real problem for me as a Christian—and I think it might be for others as well. A former elder in my church coined the phrase “déjà vu amnesia” to describe the odd feeling that “I think I have forgotten this before.” Far too often in my spiritual journey, I have the experience of realizing that once again I have forgotten some aspect of my heavenly Father’s character. On some days I forget that He is loving and kind, on others I forget that He is just and all-knowing. More often than not I simply forget that He will be faithful to keep His promises just as has done in generations past—and even in my life as recently as last week.
As I was pondering this reality and getting a bit glum about my memory lapses, my heavenly Father used two powerful tools to snap me back into reality and show me that even if I am forgetful, He is not. First, it struck me that there is an incredible beauty and power in the rituals of the Christian life. All too often I hear criticism of the boring sameness of some aspects of church life or the seemingly mundane routines that are a part of the Christian calendar. As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate these things as vital to my spiritual walk and as a means of grace to remind me of the sacred act of redemption that took place on my behalf.
It is interesting to me how we seem to abhor ritual and yet love tradition. Whether it is the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah or a family reunion at the beach, we all long for these times that remind us of the joy we once experienced at hearing the Hallelujah chorus or the excitement of first learning to swim. I have come to love taking communion at the Lord’s table and singing traditional hymns in much the same way. Celebrating Advent and watching the candles being lit each week has stirred a longing in me for the return of Christ that I had let slip (or maybe had forgotten) since last year at this time. These rituals of our faith remind me of the beauty and value of my larger spiritual family. I love to worship with the body of believers now more than ever, even if I have sung the songs before.
The second thing God used to remind me of His constant presence and faithfulness in my life was the power of story and the written word. When I am tempted to see God as less than caring about my circumstances or situation, I simply have to pick up the story of Hudson Taylor, Adoniram Judson or William Carey to be reminded that nothing is impossible for Him. If I am tempted to wallow in despair over some slight that I have experienced and feel that I am being persecuted unfairly in some way, I only need to read The Hiding Place about Corrie ten Boom to find my footing in the reality of God’s love and care once again. Praise God for these saints who had the foresight to write down the story of God in their daily lives.
As I partake in the rituals of this Christmas season and sing certain carols for the hundredth time, I pray that I will allow these traditions to remind me of a Savior who cared enough to enter into the muck and mire of this crazy world in which I live every day. I am so glad that the keepers of the scroll from generations past have given me the privilege of reading the greatest story ever written so that I will suffer just a little bit less from “déjà vu amnesia” each day. May I also be a part of reminding those with whom I come in contact of the faithfulness of our God through my own writing of and participation in the wonderful “family traditions” of our faith.