I hate the ten minutes at the beginning of a road trip. As soon as the garage door closes and our car pulls out of the driveway, my mind takes off.
Did I get my phone charger? Watch charger? Laptop charger?
I can’t remember if I fed the cats. Wait, are the cats accidentally locked in a closet?
Should I have taken our daughter to the bathroom one more time?
Did I water the flowers in our raised garden bed?
The sick feeling grows in the pit of my stomach as we drive down a two-lane road to the interstate. Whether we’re traveling north or south, something about the interstate on-ramp helps me release this mental workout and at last settle into the drive. I close my eyes, put in my earbuds to listen to a podcast, and re…
“Did you get the bag of diapers and wipes?” I blurt out to my husband in the driver seat.
I can’t see his expression behind his sunglasses, but I know it’s a mixture of annoyance and understanding, “Yes, I told you that the last time you asked me.”
“What about the car snacks?”
“Yes, don’t worry,” He reaches over and squeezes my hand, “We remembered everything.”
Each interstate exit we pass relieves a little more tension, whether out of trust in my husband’s packing skills or out of resignation that whatever we have forgotten is long behind us now.
I try to alleviate this anticipated stress by making packing lists weeks in advance—creating sections for each person in our household. The day before our departure I set phone reminders for last-minute items like chargers, water bottles, and snacks. With each preparation I make, I’m trying to keep everything under control and ensure an enjoyable vacation. We’ve all been there when the favorite stuffed animal was forgotten, there weren’t enough diapers, or the snack bag was left on the kitchen counter. Most of these minor offenses can be resolved with a quick trip to Walmart. Yet each time an item is missed, I feel like a failure. I wasn’t able to remember it all. I wasn’t able to hold it all together.
My meticulous lists and reminders are my way of overcoming my forgetfulness. I have daily phone alarms for the most basic of tasks—wear retainer, give the kids a bath, water the flowers.But unlike my imperfect memory, God needs no reminder to send rain for the flowers. He doesn’t need a to-do list to keep the cosmos spinning. There are no alarms set for the sun rising or seasons changing. He’s not anxiously keeping a note listing the promises he has made to each of his children—peace, wisdom, purpose—lest he should forget to check one off. The God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies in the field has also promised to provide for each of our needs (Matthew 6:25-34).
But, if I’m being honest, sometimes I feel like he has forgotten me. Seasons of waiting and suffering seem as if God has snoozed a reminder or missed an item on his checklist. Prayers for direction and wisdom appear unanswered, and I can begin to lose faith that God is faithful to fulfill his promises. Like my stomach clenched in anxiety at the beginning of a road trip, my heart worries he may have let me down this time.
I’m sure the Israelites believed Yahweh had forgotten his promises to their father Abraham after centuries in Egyptian slavery. As they toiled making bricks, were forced to throw their sons into the Nile River, and lived in poverty outside a prosperous city, they wondered if Yahweh was still there, if he still remembered the covenant he had made with them.
Yet even as they doubted, they still cried out to Yahweh for rescue. “Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew” (Exodus 2:23-25, emphasis added). He had never forgotten them. In fact, he knew down to the day how long they would live in the land of Egypt before he would fulfill his covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15:13-16). He was at work in unseen ways preparing for them an inheritance they could not even imagine.
In Scripture, we repeatedly see God “remembering” his promises. This doesn’t mean that he ever forgot them, but that he is now fulfilling his covenant in ways his people can see. He is reminding them he has always remembered them. While we may groan like the Israelites, waiting and suffering and wondering what his plan is, we can be confident God will bring to completion every promise he gave to us (Philippians 1:6).
While we are forgetful people, God’s character is one of remembrance. It is in his nature to remember to care for his creation. He is not like me, who forgets basic tasks like putting the laundry from the washer to the dryer or getting an oil change. Instead, he is the God of creation and covenant—who cares for the flowers, the sparrows, and for me. He remembers his promises because he is incapable of forgetting, even when I have forgotten him. He is faithful, even when I am faithless (2 Timothy 2:13).
Tomorrow, we leave for another family vacation to the beach. I know in the morning I’ll still check off my list as we load the trunk with the beach chairs, suitcases, and diaper bags. I’ll skim one last time through my reminders before I slip into the passenger seat. But as we pull out of our driveway, I’ll also turn my eyes to my small flower bed and remind my anxious heart of this truth:
It’s okay if I forget because God always remembers me.