The night before I left for college my mom came upstairs to my room.  I had already stuffed more clothes in duffel bags than would fit in five dorm rooms, but she had one more thing for me to pack. 

She gave me a stuffed teddy bear that she wanted me to take when I moved halfway across the country to go to school.  It may sound sort of cheesy to you, but this wasn’t just a regular teddy bear.  It was made out of my high school colors – forest green and red. 

And I have never forgotten what she said to me when she gave me that bear – “I want you to have this so that you will always remember where you came from.”

I get a little choked up remembering that moment for so many reasons.  It was a scary thing for me to make that 21-hour drive to a completely new place and start over after living almost my entire life in the same town.  And God gave me a fresh start when I set foot on that campus – one that has radically changed my life in more ways than one.

But He has also never allowed me to forget where I came from. 

I share that story with you not just because I’m a pretty sentimental kind of girl, but also because, with each new life experience, God continues to impress upon me the importance of my memory.

I won’t tell you that my hometown experience was always picture perfect.  Although given where I grew up, you might have assumed that it was that way.

But I am determined not to forget my history – the joy and the pain, the victory and the embarrassment, the fellowship and the loneliness.  My history has helped shape me to be who I am today, and I am grateful for it.  And there will always be a very special place in my heart for where I came from.  Though there are things about it that I love and things that I could have done without, it is my hometown and I care deeply about the people living there.

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I’ve taken to the habit of collecting rocks since I went to college.  I’ve got a small pile of them from different locations that represent different seasons in my life.

I’m one of those weird people who actually really love the Old Testament, so I do it because God instructed the Israelites to do the same thing when they were headed to the Promised Land.

When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight … And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.  He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’  For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over.”  (Joshua 4:1-3, 20-23)

Now, I don’t think that God really means for us all to go around collecting rocks.  But I do believe that God desires us to memorialize the work He’s done in our lives and the stops along the road that have changed us. 

And I think that an important part of that practice requires that we always remember the pit out of which He has pulled us.  Let’s be honest – sometimes we’d like to forget it completely.  But I’d like to propose that a healthy and accurate memory of our past not only shapes our future but helps us understand the depths of God’s unfailing love.

Being God there is nothing that escapes His notice.  But I am eternally grateful that there is one thing that God forgets.

I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.  (Isaiah 43:25)

Though He does not keep a record of our wrongs, I pray we would never forget the depths from which He has rescued us. 

May our remembering make us ever more grateful for the forgetfulness of our God.

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