Column: The Emily Angle – To forget the past is to strip the future of its full potential

The Israeli people are not quick to forget. They remember their past and all they have overcome to reassemble from all corners of the earth and become a sovereign nation. Because of the memory of their painful past, they are made stronger and more resilient. 

The people of Israel still remember how generation after generation struggled and suffered before they had a land to call their own. Remembering makes them appreciate who they are today.

When I visited Israel last spring, the experience served as a reminder of God’s provision for his people. A year later, I cannot read the Gospels without picturing the sites we visited that marked important locations of Jesus’ life events and ministry. Israel left a lasting imprint on my heart. 

Remembrance is a powerful thing, allowing us to show respect and reap the benefits of the knowledge gained by those who lived before us. 

It is said that those who fail to remember history are bound to repeat it. When we neglect the past, we deny the future of its full potential and are in danger of repeating previous generations’ mistakes.

Woven throughout the narrative of history is a pattern of events that often repeat themselves in a seemingly predictable sequence. The American Civil War was not the first of its kind. The Holocaust was not unique to one generation. Slavery was not exclusive to early America. Terrorism is not new, and neither are many of the societal ills we face. 

We build a better tomorrow when we learn from the mistakes of our predecessors. How do we expect to sustain ourselves drawing only on the knowledge of our own generation?

During my trip to Israel, we visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, called Yad Vashem, which is roughly translated to “a monument and a name.”

Honored at Yad Vashem is the memory of the victims of one of the greatest tragedies to ever plague humanity. We remember their names, their faces, their stories, their families and their legacies. We not only remember to honor them, but we also remember to ensure an event like this never happens again. 

Every year on the anniversary of 9/11, we are reminded to never forget. This keeps the memory of those who perished alive and reminds us to fight to never allow an act so violent to repeat.

We memorialize heroes and victims, so we never forget them. 

A constant theme in the Old Testament is remembering. When the Israelites wandered through the desert for 40 years after escaping Egypt, they quickly forgot the God who freed them from slavery, spared them from death, led them on dry ground through the Red Sea, conquered their enemies, provided their every need and promised them their new homeland. 

Deuteronomy 6:12 says, “Take care lest you forget the LORD,” and multiple portions of Scripture are devoted to recounting the past so we do not forget God’s love for us.  

As Christians, we are so prone to forget the goodness of God. It is easy to drift into the mindset of becoming so present-focused or future-driven that we forget the redemptive work on the cross and how this restored our own lives. 

An essential aspect of the Christian lifestyle is remembrance. When we take communion, Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of me.” When we forget what Jesus has accomplished for us, we neglect to receive the fullness of the grace he extends to us. 

Living in and dwelling on the past cripples us, but fully forgetting the past robs us of a better future. We must fight the urge to run ahead, neglecting to reflect on what we leave behind. 

Face forward and push toward what is in store, because to forget the past is to strip the future of its full potential. May we become a people who never forget lest we repeat the mistakes of those before us. Never forget to remember. 

Wood is the editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter.

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