Oftentimes, life is lived in the trenches. The Trenches do not give vista views. The Trenches are sweaty, musty, dirty, close-quartered and tend to lend to a near-sighted mindset. In The Trenches, we forget the big picture.
I have been feeling the Trench life in my bones. When a chronic illness inhabits your home and when chronic hards and challenges are not going away, it is easy to just look at the muddy walls in front of you. Your vision and your soul gets skewed. We fall into lifeless patterns so easily. We forget to do soul work. We aimlessly look for the next distraction to pretend the trench is prettier than it is or we fall into despair.
All the while, there is a greater Hope singing over us if we would train our hearts to listen. One of the biggest ways to teach our hearts is remembering and recalling the Story of God in our lives and in the overarching narrative of History.
Memory is such an amazing thing. Music evokes it. Smells evoke it. A picture or a story transports us back emotionally. What a gift we have been given to remember. Even an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient can recall memories from long ago that have been imprinted deep within.
This past Fall and Spring, I have been painting homes that house memories and significance for families. I see it as a privilege that goes beyond what can be captured on a page. It is a vehicle to memories of experiences, of feelings, of security and of love. Homes are markers of our stories. It is the place that formation occurred within our character. It is very personal.
Memories are communal, as well. Those memories are so strong and impactful and they thread and bind us together. This past week I have been asking those from my hometown to recall places and markers within our history in order to put together a collage painting. Such warm and comforting feelings and lots of laughter have occurred. I am reminded at how much of a gift that memory is to our souls. In our Trench lives, we desperately need it.
Our forefathers did not have Facebook memories to remind them, but they told and retold stories on front porches and at Sunday dinners. In an age of isolated connection, we need to lean in to learn from the past.
The Bible recalls the histories and stories to remind us. We see the reality of the children of Israel living breathtaking miracles and forgetting in the next days as they felt the Trench Life. They were commanded “do not forget! remember!” We are commanded in the same way because human nature involves looking at what is immediately felt in front of us.
REMEMBER: to bring to mind or think of again (Webster’s dictionary) Remembering: The process of recalling the past, especially the presence and activity of God in the history of his people. Past memories can lead to praise and rejoicing and to hope for the future. God himself remembers (Dictionary of Bible Themes)
This act of remembering can be recalling the moments in the day in which you have gratitude. A thankful remembering of a kind word or the feel of a breeze or a moment that you saw something good can change your perspective for the day. This is something you have to choose to do. In our world, it does NOT come naturally.
As we live in the Trenches often, our souls need to be reminded of the Big Picture. Recalling God stories and growth is a tool in which we are reminded of purpose, of hope, of resilience. They remind us that there has been movement. They remind us who to trust and how to fight.
Lamentations 3:21(22-24) is our teacher in this. The author is lamenting of seriously hard times, and comes to this “But this I CALL TO MIND, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The LORD is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.'”
Remembering and Recalling are forms of worship that bring our hearts to a different place than the Trench. This morning in my prayer journal, I simply began recalling…”Remember when You…” to the Lord. Memories poured out of Trench situations that felt suffocating in the moment and were hopeless with just my strength and reasoning. These are places I cried to the LORD in, and in HIS timing and purpose, He moved and answered and changed me and brought redemption in situations.
Oftentimes, we want Him to fill the Trench–that’s our demand. “Hey God, if you really care for and love me, fill this Trench up and make it disappear! Pronto, k?” “Stop this warfare. Make it easy!!!”
Fox-hole: a hole in the ground used by troops as a shelter against enemy fire or as a firing point
Filled trenches have not formed me into who I am. Foxholes that I have worn in with the Father have brought fortitude, grit, courage, and hope that I may join others in their holes and point them to Hope. In the Foxholes with Him, I have seen His beauty and His character and His power. I have come to value Him above all and to see His ways are better. That has happened over time, and remembering those times helps me see Him and His hand in the Trench right now.
This morning, I have recalled ways that God has rescued lives around me, how He has protected and cared for us, how He brought life to my womb, how He has shepherded His people, how He has illumined dark situations. None of these were immediate answers, and many of them did not turn out as I demanded in my wisdom. All of them were for my good to know Him so much more intimately and to value Him more deeply. All of them have been used to help others in pain—ALL OF THEM. Remembering helps us see a bigger picture of redemption and beauty.
So, I share this with a better perspective than I started the day with, but I am still in the Trenches just like you are. We need one another. We need reminders. We need to call reality like it is and not try to portray a life of pixie dust and perfection. That is not helpful to you or to others around you. That does not portray hope because it’s a lie.
If you feel lost today and do not know where to start, turn to Psalm 105-107 and recall the work of God in the wandering people of Israel. Think about markers in your life and write them down. Get out of the trench of today so that you may remember God’s hand in the past to have hope for his hand in the future.