Why I do it, year after year? Partially because I’m an airhead. Well. I actually have a decent memory. But even with that—because I think it’s all too human to forget.
My 2015 List is my vigorous attempt to comb through my year, recalling how faithful God was to me this year. It’s cluttered with pencil scrawls of events and good gifts large (“faithfulness in robbery”, reads one line) and relatively small (the list of delicious or wise books I have read, or remembering that time I hauled my mattress outside because I really thought we had bedbugs, and it turns out we didn’t).
It’s based on the idea of Joshua, his sandals fresh on the other bank of the Jordan River, through which he and millions of donkeys and families and cart wheels have just rumbled on completely dry ground. Get a stone, he tells each tribe. We’re going to make a monument; a piece of art. And when your kids and your kids’ kids pass by and wonder why those stones are there, you’ll get to tell them, because God brought us here.
I believe there is biblical precedent for remembering. A pen, my professor used to tell me, is a crowbar for the mind.
I also do it because, well, after a hard year, I tend to have a sense of foreboding, of straight-up glass-is-half-empty brand of hand-wringing. I forget all the little ways that God’s so richly, lavishly taken good care specifically of me, like my mom packing a daily lunch when I was a kid. I tend to space the 1,095 or so meals He sat before me; the 36,500,000 times or so my heart beat, even as I slept; the fact that I have four living children, running around and creating havoc every day of the year. And all the delightful, advantageous packages I partake of as a member of the developed world.
That morning by morning, new mercies I see.
Because of a few bad knocks that stick out in my mind, I can tend to lump the year—and God with it—into some kind of glad to see that year in my rearview mirror-type of thing. I get a little preoccupied with my hurt, of the chest-clenching pain. I tend to shove some events into the category of “I want to forget” instead of training the eyes of my heart to see God in all that happened. As C.S. Lewis pens in The Magician’s Nephew,
What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.
Or as I read that Christmas day from Tim Keller,
…all true prayer “pursued far enough, becomes praise.” It may take a long time or a lifetime, but all prayer that engages God and the world as they truly are will eventually end in praise.*
I let my mind drift month by month, my pencil scratching out God’s goodness to me. Honestly, there were a couple of months I wanted to leave out, their surface still bruised as I look back. But then I realized I would be planting a mental hedge around those inflamed, tender spots…as if God wasn’t faithful there; as if His hands weren’t just as loving, just as intentional and present as the areas that shone with luster and health.
Even in those areas that still feel unresolved, their “happily ever after” still unwritten—I can trust that He was there; that His faithfulness was indeed great. One counselor friend of mine once told me that when she counsels victims of abuse who feel abandoned by God, she asks them to mentally revisit all those scenes in their mind—but this time, with God holding them, grieving with them. God’s arms were wrapped around me in my accident this year; He stood there in traffic with me as the thieves ran with my bag.
I’m scribbling little additions to my list now and then–two pages so far–as the new year churns our way, as my foot lifts seamlessly to catch the moving sidewalk that is 2016. And clutching my list in my hand, I step with a little more confidence, a little more faith.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
*As quoted in The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.