Part 1: Remember Your History
Growing up, my brother and I had a close relationship. He and I instinctively processed our lives together verbally. Every so often, we camped out in my room to visit. Even later in life, as we began to pursue different paths and live in different places, we would catch each other up on the fine details of what we had experienced apart. This practice of remembrance challenged me to listen well, organize my thoughts and emotions, and grow spiritually.
The practice of remembering richly figures into discipleship. It also supplies perspective on current events. The here and now weighs heavy on our minds and hearts. We lose that perspective easily in the flood of information. For us to regain our footing, we must practice remembrance, a connectedness to all that has gone before.
First, we must connect to the redemptive narrative—the story of God’s faithfulness to His world. At God’s WORLD News, we call this “developing biblical literacy.” When we take a long look at scripture, we observe the consistency of human brokenness and sin. Consider the explicit reminder in Ecclesiastes: “There is nothing new under the sun.” Our current season does not surprise the Father. His Lordship over all remains constant. It is we who forget.
Secondly, and in light of the redemptive reality in which we live, we must connect to our human history, both recent and ancient. At GWN, we would call this “developing news literacy”—a literacy of current events anchored in the “Ebenezer stones” of the Greater Story (see 1 Samuel 7:7-12).
Consider Grace-full Moves in Atlanta in the new November/December issue of WORLDteen. Homeowner Kysha Hehn discusses the restoration process which went beyond physical architectural elements and into restoring the stories of the family who once inhabited it. These stories included both joys and sorrows—beauty and brokenness. But Kysha and her family chose to tell the complete story through a gracious lens: “The most graceful way to move forward is to be gentle and honest with the past, with pieces of our history that we cannot change. . . with the intention of creating a more peaceful and compassionate world for everyone.”
As followers of Christ, we know that God remembers our sin no more and gives us a way forward in union with Him. This causes us to realize we need not wipe out our own flawed history. We may respond in repentance where appropriate and a positive way forward for the next generation.
All of humanity struggles with the same forgetfulness or the desire to forget. Yet it is in the telling and retelling of our history that we not only put it to memory, but also see revealed in it the faithfulness of the Father. Even as we make forays into this world to shape it for His glory, we must run back to Him to remember our identity and our purpose: We are His people, this is His story unfolding in us as we learn to glorify and enjoy Him forever.
Part 2: Remember Your Identity
Recently, I re-read Mary Jackson’s superb piece Web of Deception in connection with Josh Schumacher’s brief in The Sift: South Korea fines Google, Meta $72 million (a report on user data and privacy). I connected the dots between Josh’s report and our WORLDteen piece on virtual influencer: Rozy. Each of these stories relates to some facet of identity and raises a diversity of questions worthy of exploration with our teens and students: Where does human identity originate? How do we form it? What has damaged our understanding of identity? How do we protect our identity and what threatens it? How do we mature in our identity? What distinguishes humanity from animals—or from virtual simulations?
Answers to these questions reveal a stark difference between biblical and secular worldviews. The former claims that human identity derives itself from the Creator who made male and female as His image-bearers. The latter regards identity as nebulous, self-defined, and arbitrary (no external, universal criteria).
Human choice and “free will” rank high on the list of factors shaping our self-formation. Until challenged to think about our thinking, we often fall into the same wrong-headed belief that we choose rather than receive our identity.
Consider these phrases:
- live out/into your identity
- embrace your identity
- become who you already are
Look familiar? When we forget who has given us our identity, relying on our own strength and will, we reach worldly conclusions which lead ultimately to despair. Now add “in Christ” to the sentences. When we daily practice remembrance of who we are, it transforms our perspective and reminds us: We are not our own. We have been bought with a price. Our existence and essence have been restored in Christ.
The three persons of the Trinity inform our identity. Our Creator-God established humanity: designed us from His thought, formed us from the dust He had made, set us apart from the rest of creation. The Son and Spirit share the steadfast intent of the Father. Christ has united us in His death and resurrection by His Spirit who has sealed us for Himself and progressively matures us through sanctification. We know with confidence that we are becoming more ourselves.
His grace restores humanity to the position and purpose the Father intended for us as vice-regent-image-bearers (kings and queens!) in His creation.
That is who we are.
And that is who our children are.
In application of these thoughts, parents, teachers, mentors of kids and students, your primary work in discipleship remains: to teach these things diligently to your children. (Deuteronomy 6:7) This is their best preparation for facing the world and its confusion with confidence reminding them of who they are and to whom they belong.
“Once a king or queen (of Narnia), always a king or queen.”
Part 3: Remembering Hardship for the Sake of Healing
As followers of Christ, the news of the day gives us ample opportunity to consider the reality that all of us are known by God with a history fraught with unfaithfulness, sin, and harm—enacted upon us or that which we have caused to others. In this third installment on the practice of remembrance, I urge you to take time to process hurt and losses in your family’s experience, for: Healthy processing of current or past trauma, hardship, or loss allows us to heal, grow, and ultimately respond to the broken world around us with grace and peace.
For many, the last two years have supplied an abundance of trauma. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the CDC on October 14, 2022, “Social and educational disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated concerns about adolescents’ mental health and suicidal behavior.” These disruptions belong to a category called “adverse childhood experiences” or ACEs for short. ACEs are “aspects of a child’s environment that can undermine [his or her] sense of safety, stability, and bonding”—like loss of community, housing uncertainty, educational disruptions, job loss, or death in the family, or far worse. (For an excellent and gracious discussion of parenting with a view towards coaching mental health, I highly recommend this episode of “The One Conversation” podcast.)
Our family checked several of the ACE boxes above as COVID-19 caused a domino of losses in our lives. We are still rebuilding and recovering, which sometimes looks like two steps forward and one step back. Emotions can run high as we process past hurts. When my daughters’ reservoirs overflow, their emotions hit me like a tidal wave. How badly I want to fix it—and often try to! But I know that we will miss the healing and sharpening of tools for them to later apply in their own mental healthcare if we run to solutions first.
I don’t do this well—yet—but I am learning, limping, and exploring what it looks like to allow for emotional process while coaching reflection. Here are some things to try to keep in mind when the floods rise:
- First, holding, hugging, touching our children in these moments helps them “regulate their affect” (emotions). It provides a physical anchor and even exposes them to our own breathing—breathe deeply to help regulate both yourself and them. I have literally held my children when they were young and audibly mouth-breathed to help them settle.
- Asking open questions like, “What’s got you stirred today?” (as opposed to “yes or no” questions like “Are you upset?”) allows our children to think about what they are feeling, aiding their reflective process. Open questions encourage them to create categories, find words, and even apply logic to what can otherwise overwhelm their affect. Note: Make sure you listen to their words, not just figure out what you’re going to say next. You might practice repeating their words or paraphrasing, “I hear you saying____. Is that right?” and, “Help me understand.”
- Acknowledge and affirm their words and their emotions. That might look like, “I hear you, precious. You had so many dreams of what you wanted to do” or “I know, kiddo, you have some great friends in our old town” or “I know, it’s been scary since daddy lost his job.” Some version of: It makes sense that you are sad or scared or worried—these are deeply impactful things.
- Go to the Father together, groaning and remembering that the Spirit groans even more eloquently for us in His intercession for us. Remembering that Jesus is our Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-16) and our Healer—remember Him.
- Possibly the most challenging yet most effective bit: Read and practice Philippians 4:16-17 which reminds us to give thanksgiving and ultimately find peace. Even in our hardship, when we look up we are reminded of His Lordship and all that He has done, is doing, and will ultimately complete. Even in grief, we have a reason for joy.
In the November/December magazines, a number of our GWN articles report on a faithful response to brokenness, suffering, and trauma: Grace-full Moves in Atlanta in WORLDteen and Running toward Danger in WORLDteen and its age-appropriate counterpart in WORLDkids. Even our youngest children can develop categories for hurt and healing in our God’s Big WORLD articles like Go love others well. Each of these news stories recounts struggle and pain—but none end there: Redemption and restoration characterize Christ’s reign and all who are united with Him.
The days to come will include experiences and news of hardship and grief. Where can you carve out time this month to process past pain? How will you pursue healing and hope?
Part 4: How We Remember
While walking down the road in my rural neighborhood in western North Carolin,a a hint of something in the autumn air arrests my attention. A combination of musty diesel exhaust, rich earthy humus, and a damp smell immediately convey me to Dublin, Ireland. An image of a lumbering double-decker bus springs to mind: I first savored that particular blend of smells while awaiting the number 16 with my babysitter and younger siblings. The steady green standard of Irish public transportation that pulled up at the St. Edna’s park terminus in Rathfarnham would later deposit us at the top of St. Stephen’s Green in the heart of downtown. Cobble-stoned Grafton street welcomed us with a whole new array of odors. They exploded upon our sensitive, young olfactory organs: smoky (peat), sweet (milk-tea and scones), toasty (the Guinness brewery), bitter (cigarettes), tangy (Irish whiskey distillery), savory (the local chipper). The distinct Irish aromas comingled with the fragrance of the gospel on the lips of street preachers. I will never forget Dublin in the 1980s.
As I’ve been meditating on the importance of remembrance—how it factors into our learning and even how we engage the world around us—it seemed appropriate to discuss how we remember.
The story above provides us with the example of the strongest factor for both creating new and accessing old memories: our sense of smell. I am hundreds upon hundreds of miles and multiple decades away from the memory I recount above…but a smell brought it back as though it were yesterday.
Smell connects us most profoundly to memory, but all of our senses factor into it. For this reason, if we want to learn language, math or science facts, historical dates and figures, or systematic theology, the more of our senses (the more of our body) we involve, the more easily we will lay things to memory.
You probably already knew these things. But I employ repetition here to reinforce another method of remembering. Did you know that even better than rote repetition is acting out a story? Field trips and audience-participatory historical reenactment serve as the epitome of experiential learning and thereby laying things to memory. As with this past week, when we return to the table we feast on both food and family memories. In worshiping communities, our acts of remembrance include sacrament and ceremony. Think of the physical elements the Lord provided for us to remember Him and all He has done! Both communion and baptism provide physical connection to memory along with affording us opportunity to recite words of truth and inspire our kids and students to ask questions and go deeper. Retelling the story (“re-narration” à la Charlotte Mason) and connecting current learning to prior knowledge, question/answer style, are excellent daily “remembrance” practices. They also help us identify areas where we still lack knowledge or where our memory needs more exercise.
An easy current example: we might employ the question/answer to increase our understanding regarding the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. We might ask our older kids and students these questions (in reverse chronological order, to dig into the history):
- What happened in 2014? Why?
- When did Vladimir Putin come to power in Russia? What is his background? How many terms has he served? What controversies have arisen surrounding his leadership?
- When did Volodymyr Zelenskyy become president?
- When did Ukraine gain its independence from the USSR?
- When did the Soviet Union begin? What type of government did Russia have previous to socialism? Why/how did it fail?
- Was Ukraine always a part of Russia (either as a Soviet republic or territory of the empire)?
- What other significant tie exists between Russian and Ukraine beyond political, economic, or territorial?
Make memory work into a game with your kids and students. Encourage them to discuss things they remember and ask them why they remember it so clearly (which also provides insight into learning style along with profound learning experiences from the past). The work of remembrance is a godly work worthy of our time, energy, and attention.
“Remember the wondrous works that He has done, His miracles and the judgments He uttered.” (1 Chronicles 16:12)
How do you practice remembrance with your kids or students? What have you learned about them and their learning styles as you engage such practices? What have you learned about their hopes, dreams, longings? What have you learned about yourself? Where do you hope to grow in these practices—what will you do with them next!? I’d love to read your stories or answers to the questions above. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org — I’m listening!