Going out into the wilderness stirs us to remember. It might be recollections of the last time we were in this place, what we and others thought and said and did, or it might be flitting, half-forgotten memories of something that happened in the past – of childhood, of friendships, of our own children, of the (hopefully) pleasant things that have happened in our lives.
Remembering isn’t purely a human weakness. Often, especially in the Old Testament, God “remembers” things, or promises that He will remember. “But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and livestock that were with him in the ark…” (Genesis 8:1) “God heard their (the Israelite’s) groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham…” (Exodus 2:24) “I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.” (Leviticus 26:42)
Remembering the pleasant things – the good things that have passed, or the good things we know will come; in short, the faithfulness of God – releases is us a sense of well-being and peace. It also gives us peace about our pasts and offers us hope for the future.
This past trip was, for us, a time of remembering. Some of it was because we had been here before up to 20 years earlier. “Remember when we hiked this river, and the water was up to my chest…” “Remember hiking this cinder cone the first time, and we went all the way down into the crater even though there wasn’t a trail…” “Remember swimming in Lake Mead last time, and they gave the kids rulers telling you to wear your life jacket…”
We also remembered the faithfulness of God: “Remember when we hiked this trail, and our youngest sister was in the backpack and she lost her shoe, and some really nice hiker put it up on a rock where we could find it…” “Remember that time when the van broke down, and we ‘just happened’ to be near a big city where they fixed it, and while we were waiting, we were out walking and it started raining 2 inch hail?” “Do you remember when we hiked all the way across Death Valley, and it ‘just happened’ to be Easter Morning?”
Remembering also brings us near God’s heart as we remember, together with Him, His faithfulness and the things that have past.
The wilderness gives us space for this – to remember, to declutter our over-stimulated brains to the point that we remember the laughter of our children when they were young. To think of the funny guy in school. To recall when a dear friend went fishing with us. To remember the promise that we would see the Glory of the Lord. To call to remembrance the Glory of the Lord we have already seen.
It’s one of the special reasons to return to places we have been in the wilderness as well as to go to places we have not yet been – to remember, to be thankful for what has happened before, to renew our hope for the future.