Connections 11.13.2022: Remembering to Forget

Isaiah 65:17-25

I’m writing this post on November 1. Where I live, the autumn trees have been spectacular this year and, on this All Saints’ morning, every time the wind blows a flurry of red and gold leaves spill to the ground. The trees are letting go until next spring. In this season when nature enters a time of death and darkness, it makes sense that many religious traditions observe rituals of remembrance. By the time this post goes live on Coracle, our midterm election votes will be cast and counted. We vote based on what we want for our future; some of us want a return to certain pieces of a past that we remember fondly. However things turn out, many of us will have to let go of some of the hopes we had when we marked our ballots. Until the next time.

This season of natural, cultural, and social change makes an interesting backdrop for reading the prophet Isaiah. On God’s behalf, Isaiah promises “new heavens and a new earth”: a holy city full of delight, an end to all weeping, long healthy lifespans, fruitful labor, abundant nourishment, God’s attentive nearness, and friendly beasts. Surely for Isaiah’s first audience, the people living in exile, the prophet’s insistence that “the former things shall not be remembered” (v. 17) is good news. With all that they have to look forward to, all the promises of God that will be fulfilled in a new season of their national life, why would they want to look backward at all? Why does the prophet need to tell them that “the good old days” won’t even cross their minds?

But as I watch the leaves fall, the impulse to look back makes sense. It is easier to remember than to imagine. Maybe it is even easier to grieve what we had to let go of than it is to trust God for a future we’ve only read about. With all that we have to look forward to, I understand why we want to look backward. It feels safe. It feels certain.

In this season we remember the gifts of those who came before us, we hope for better days for our communities, and we once again practice letting go. With the prophet’s help, we too can remember to forget the former things so we can already begin to join in the future God still promises: a future of safety, of certainty. A future of peace.

Discussion

  • How does the change of seasons reflect your spiritual life this November? What are you letting go of? What or who are you remembering? What are you dreaming of or looking forward to? What changes are happening in your life?
  • Are you more comfortable with looking back or looking forward? With remembering or imagining? When you make decisions, do you tend to base your choice on remembering the past or hoping for the future?
  • How does the past influence your decisions?
  • Are there “former things” you need to remember to forget so that you can anticipate God’s future whole-heartedly?

Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is the lead editor of Connections. She is a graduate of Samford University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and as a military spouse has had nine (at last count) different hometowns in the past 20 years. She and her husband Scott and sons Sam and Levi live in the Washington D.C. area. In recent years, Nikki has written Smyth & Helwys curricula as well as devotionals for d365.org and Baptist Women in Ministry. She weaves clergy stoles, knits almost anything, and dreams of making her dreadful novel drafts into readable books. She blogs about faith and making things at amovingyarn.wordpress.com.

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