By Katie Mumper
January serves as a time for reflection and remembering for many. We look back at the previous year with a mixture of fondness and regret, calling to mind both our successes and failures. If you’re anything like me, your remembering tends to focus on what didn’t go well, sparking resolutions for better choices and behavior in the coming year.
I didn’t lose the weight I wanted to in 2016. I’ll resolve to try harder in 2017.
I didn’t get that job I applied for, the one I really wanted. I’ll resolve to accomplish the professional development that could have landed me that position.
I haven’t been consistent with my quiet time. I’ll resolve to do better in 2017.
While these resolutions are probably helpful and good for me, with this mindset, January can be a depressing time of focusing on how far I have to go in becoming the person I think I should be. I tend to get overwhelmed and exhausted just contemplating all I want to achieve in the coming year.
Perhaps I’m going about this remembering thing all wrong.
As participants in God’s kingdom, we are called to be people who remember, but the focus and scope of our memories is important.
Throughout the Old Testament, Israel’s leaders and prophets called on them to remember who God is and what he had done for them. In fact, we’re often shown a direct correlation between Israel’s forgetfulness and their idol worship: “They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked…” (Neh. 9:17a, NIV).
David’s Psalms often pivot from despair to hope when he chooses to remember God’s past faithfulness.
“Then I thought, ‘To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
Yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
And meditate on all your mighty deeds.’” (Psalm 77:10-12, NIV)
This Biblical picture of remembrance should inform our own practices as we reflect on the past and move into the future. What if I shift the focus of my memory from myself to God? What if I look back farther than just 2016? By widening the lens of my memory, I might remember how God brought me to where I am in this moment. Instead of seeing how far I have to go, I can rejoice in how far I have already come.
Suddenly, my paradigm shifts from one of striving to one of grace. I remember the vine doesn’t strain to produce fruit by the strength of its own will. The fruit produced by the vine doesn’t all ripen at the same time. It’s not about what I can do to do better. It’s about remembering what God has already done and trusting him to continue working. Instead of getting caught up in self-condemnation for the failures of 2016, I can forgive myself and move forward with hope.
Katie Mumper is a daughter, sister, friend, writer, and singer. She loves Jesus, music, books, and great TV shows. Because she’s far from perfect, she is grateful for God’s grace in her life. She writes with the hope that others might be encouraged to let God make them new as well. You can read more of her work at beautyrestored.me.
Photograph © Harits Mustya Pratama, used with permission