3 Ways to Learn from the Joyously Annoying Memory of Children

One of the most often repeated phrases at the Kelley house right now is, “But you said…”

You can fill in the blank afterward. For us, it usually has to do with a dessert or a “special drink” (something other than water). Kids are like elephants in that way – they seem to never forget when it’s something they want to remember. Over the course of the past 9 years, Jana and I have slowly picked up on this trait, and it’s caused us to learn to be a little gun shy when we are making promises. More than once we’ve been burned over saying the kids could have or do something, then something else comes up, and we have to make a mid-course correction.

So we now typically withhold information. We don’t make big promises about upcoming events because someone could get sick or some other circumstance could change. So instead of setting the kids up for disappointment and ourselves up for frustration, we choose kid-unfriendly answers like “maybe” or “we’ll see.” They love that last one. Funny thing that I’ve never had to remind them of some promises I’ve made; most of the time, it’s them doing the reminding and me internally kicking myself for making quick promises without thinking through all the implications.

It’s in cases like that when I remember that God is better. He’s a better Father than I am. He’s more trustworthy. More generous. More caring. And He’s never had the moment where He had to go to one of His children and say, “I know I said this, but things have changed, and so now I’m going to say that.” Funny thing about that, though, is that the dynamic is opposite when it comes to God as with our own kids.

Whereas my kids are reminding me of the promises I made, it seems that God is the One doing the reminding most of the time.

Depending on your translation, there are at least 65 times in the Bible when God tells His people to remember. Remember when you were slaves… Remember My great deeds… Remember who you once were…

Remember. God is like that – He’s the Divine Reminder. And He’s totally comfortable doing so because He is what He was what He will be. Then, now, and forever, and if He said it once, He means it now. We, on the other hand, are forgetful people who, evidently, need to be reminded over and over again. Perhaps we need to be reminded because we are too lazy to think often on His promises. Or maybe it’s because there have been one too many people in our lives who have broken their promises and we transfer that distrust onto God. Whatever the reason, though, it seems that having the kind of childlike faith Jesus wants for us is returning to the simplicity intrinsic to children that knows and trusts the promises given to them. Faith, it could be said, is little more than taking God at His Word.

If that is true, then perhaps there are some simple action points to help us be the people who do indeed take God at His Word:

1. Know His promises.

Perhaps it should go without saying, but it’s really hard to believe God’s promises if you don’t know His promises. And to know His promises, you have to know His Word. But knowing God’s promises goes both ways – not only does it remind us what He has said He will do, it also helps us know what He did NOT say He will do. Knowing that guards us against the kind of error that leads to unreal expectations. When we know God’s promises, we know that we should not expect ease and comfort as His children. We should not be looking for wealth and prosperity. We know what to look for and what not to look for when we know what God has told us.

2. Trust His promises.

While my kids are still young enough that trust is a fairly natural thing for them, they will soon reach the age of disappointment when cynicism will creep into their lives. As they grow, trust is not something they will default to; it’s something they have to fight for. It’s something they must actively choose, and so it is with all of us adult-types. Because we live in a disappointing world, trusting God is a battle especially when circumstances tell us that He is not to be trusted. It’s on those days when faith becomes a fight, and one that is waged over and over again each day. The question on those days, when you take away everything else, becomes very, very simple: Are you really going to believe what God has said?

3. Preach His promises.

And I don’t just mean to other people. In fact, preaching the promises of God to others during their time of need can come across half-hearted and unsympathetic. Theological truth should be wielded less like a hammer in those situations and more like a paintbrush. But when it comes to yourself, you can preach, and preach hard. Preach like there’s no tomorrow. Preach mercilessly. Preach to your own soul over and over again. And as you do, remember the basis for those promises is not your conduct or your circumstances; it’s the character of God. When we begin to doubt that character, remember the ultimate measure of His love and advocacy for you is not your circumstances but the cross of Jesus Christ when He put all questions to rest, once and for all.

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