Three friends got together over coffee, and the two of them recounted a recent golf trip they took together. It was a golf trip meant for all three, but something came up for the third. The first one began, “Oh my God, what a great trip it was! The greens were perfect, and I had one of my best rounds ever!” The other was utterly shocked. “What are you talking about? Don’t you remember the horrible ride to the hotel and the hotel itself was a mess! It was one of my worst weekends!” They had gone together and experienced the same things, but one chose to remember the good parts while the other dwelled on the bad.
I begin with this because through prophet Jeremiah, God recounted one of the past events: “The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD: I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the LORD, the first fruits of his harvest.” (Jeremiah 2:1-3a)
God looked back at the Exodus event and recounted, with fondness, the birth of the relationship between God and the nation of Israel. God connected it to a marriage between two lovers – the older man and a younger bride. And as God plucked her out of slavery and rescued her through the Red Sea, Israel, his youthful bride, expressed to God her devotion and love, and “Israel was holy to the LORD.” In the wilderness, in the first 40 years of relationship, there was nothing but bliss.
What is God talking about?!? That’s not how I read Exodus and Leviticus and Numbers and Deuteronomy where those forty years are recorded. Obviously, God was faithful and loving. God was understanding and caring. God was the perfect partner who could do no wrong. However, Israel was far from devoted and loving, and the reason Israel struggled in the wilderness for forty years was because they were far from holy – they complained before God and Moses incessantly.
So, what’s God remembering?
It seems to me that God has chosen to remember only the good parts, those moments when Israel was devoted and loving, and holy unto the Lord. Rather than dwelling on their sins, God has chosen to focus on their positives. And I just love that!
It’s like my family trips. My children are all grown up now, but when they were young, we used to take lengthy road trips. Yeah, I did most of the driving, and there were moments of great stress as the kids fought over just about everything. But when I look back at those trips, and when I look over the photos of my children smiling, there comes over me a sense of contentment and joy. I don’t remember the yelling and the crying and the complaining. I remember the smiles. I remember the random conversations. I remember the excitement on their faces. I remember us being a family. I think that’s what’s going on here with God.
We know that God remembers everything (how many times have we been reminded of the Great Judgment when our whole lives will be revealed to us – the good, but mostly the bad). And so we tend to worry that we are always disappointing our God. He is faithful, but we lack trust. He is loving, but we are neglectful. He is always there, but we don’t always acknowledge him. And so we tend to go before him with hesitancy and fear.
But through Jeremiah, God is telling us that he chooses to focus on the positives! He delights in the times we did look up, those moments we did acknowledge him in our busyness. That’s great news for us!
And you know, when my children mention a story or two of the fun they had those road trips, I just beam with pride. I was there to create fond memories for them. And in their recounting and in their appreciation, they let me know I was a good father to them. I think God will like that as well. And so take time to recount a story when God was actively involved in your life and give him thanks.