Over the past several weeks I’ve been doing more grocery shopping for my family. And something significant happened when I took on the bulk of our family’s grocery shopping responsibility—I could no longer complain about not having food to eat. I could no longer complain when we ran out of yogurt and granola or had run low on bread, sliced turkey, and cheese. As a result, we have had significantly fewer passive-aggressive sighs and exhales coming from our kitchen.
Naturally, I’d like to attribute this to my own marvelous competence, but it’s only groceries. And besides, Hanna reminded me for several days last week that she was drinking her coffee black because I had forgotten to buy more coffee creamer.
Lately, I’ve been struck by the relationship between remembering and obedience on the one hand, and forgetting and sin on the other. Throughout the Bible, but in particular in passages concerning the Exodus and Israel in the wilderness, these elements are stressed. The people of God are commanded to remember God (Deuteronomy 4:9). When they forget, they sin (Psalm 78:40–43; 106:19–22).
All of this this seems straightforward enough. Remembering God is good; forgetting God is bad. Yes, of course.
But why did the Israelites forget? How could they forget that the very land of their dwelling was given to them by God? How could they forget that their lineage traced itself to slavery in Egypt—that they had been rescued by the mighty hand of the LORD? And what could they have done to remember?
Answering those questions might require a bit of scriptural digging—and possibly a dose of imagination as well. What requires less imagination is considering the ways and causes of our own forgetfulness. We forget the Scriptures are the inspired word of God. We forget that Christ has given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit to every believer. We forget that the church is the bride of Christ.
And we often forget, not out of willful rebellion, but through various preoccupations. We don’t mean to forget, but we don’t work to remember.
There are lots of explanations as to why I might have forgotten to buy coffee creamer. My own defense is that I didn’t know we needed more in the first place, which has less to do with me forgetting and more to do with not listening to my wife’s polite request (I’ve already apologized!).
But part of the reason I didn’t buy more coffee creamer is because it’s not a part of my life. I don’t drink coffee regularly. And when I do, it’s black. Coffee creamer is not on my mind in the grocery store the way that milk, bananas, eggs, and bread are. Nobody needs to tell me to buy more of those because I pay attention to them every day. Unlike coffee and creamer, each one of those things is something that I have a habit of eating.
While it’s entirely possible to take one, giant, intentional step into sin, it’s much more likely that we will find ourselves stuck in the muck after a long time of unintentionally forgetting God. Preoccupied with other things—things that might be good and legitimate—we slip away from our sure foundation.
What habits do you have that make it easy to forget? And what habits do you have that reinforce remembering?
Forgetting coffee creamer might lead to a day or two of bitter coffee. Forgetting God—that’s a whole lot worse.