By Dr. Mark H. Creech
Have you ever forgotten something? Traditionally, we attribute forgetfulness to absentminded professors and their kind. But truthfully, forgetfulness is an experience with which we all are familiar. Even preachers forget.
One young pastor was talking with an older minister about the challenges he would face in the ministry. Something that especially fascinated this young preacher was the wedding ceremony. He listened carefully as the older minister outlined each step he should take. In conclusion the wise old minister advised, “Now if you ever forget what to say, just quote Scripture. It’s always appropriate at a wedding.”
Shortly thereafter this young and inexperienced minister had the opportunity to test his newly gained knowledge when a couple requested he perform their wedding ceremony. Everything went according to plan – up until that moment in the service where he was supposed to pronounce the couple as husband and wife. At that point his mind went completely blank. He couldn’t remember what to say next to save his life. Suddenly, the advice of the wise old pastor came back to him: “Just quote Scripture. Just quote Scripture.” Unfortunately, the only Scripture that came to his mind, which he dutifully quoted was, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
Where would we be in life if it were not for the ability to remember?
Sam Keen in one of his books relates an experience with a man who happened by while Keen was building a fence around his own yard. The stranger explained that he liked working with wood and indicated that he wanted to help Keen finish his fence. Anticipating a new friendship, Keen prepared to welcome the man’s assistance. But before he could speak any further, the man said: “There is something that I must tell you now, while I remember it, if I wait too late, I don’t know.” He then explained that because of an accident, that part of his brain that controls memory had been adversely affected. He said he had no control over what he could recall. Sometimes he could remember events from the distant past, while not being able to remember something that happened five minutes earlier. Other times he could remember the immediate, but couldn’t recall the past. Keen and the man agreed to meet the following Monday to work on the fence together, but the man never showed up. When he found in his pocket the slip of paper with Keen’s contact information on it, he probably couldn’t even remember why it was there.
C. Welton Gaddy who refers to Keen’s experience in “The Importance of a Good Memory,” notes:
“Can you imagine what life would be like with no memory? There could be no promises, no commitments, no covenants, no forgiveness, and no humility. Chaos, embarrassment, frustration, and anxiety would characterize our days. None of us could ever be sure where we are going because none of us could be sure where we have been.”
So that we may always know where we should be headed, Americans must never forget from whence we came and what so many gave “the last full measure of devotion to defend.” That’s why we celebrate Memorial Day.
Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, emerged from the shadows of the War Between the States. First observed in the South, a group of women decorated the graves of those brave soldiers who had died in that war. Soon the practice was observed each year across the country. Since World War I, the day has been recognized to honor the fallen dead of all our nation’s wars.
This great heritage of ours has cost far more than most of us will ever understand. Every right we enjoy as a people was afforded to us by the members of our country’s military who gave their life in defense of freedom. Every American right was bought with blood.
How quickly we forget. It’s easy to overlook how much we owe to our country. But more tragic still, is how easy it is to forget how much we owe to God.
More than 200 years ago, representatives of the 13 original colonies proclaimed their fundamental conviction that an individual’s rights and freedoms were something wholly derived from a benevolent and loving God.
They wrote: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
We live in a day when many voices are raised in defense of so-called human rights – the right to right to cut off the life of an unborn infant that they have conceived – the right to pollute the public mind with obscenity and indecency – the right to undermine the traditional family – the right to deny the existence of the God who gives them breath – the right to use and abuse substances that jeopardize the public’s health – the rights of people convicted of criminal acts. We hear a lot about these rights.
But what about God’s rights? Have we forgotten that our unalienable rights are predicated upon the rights of our Creator and Redeemer? Doesn’t he have a prior claim to obedience and trust? Doesn’t he have rights over his own creation?
To forget His rights are to imperil our own.
In his first general order to his troops, General George Washington called on:
“Every officer and man…to live, and act, as becomes a Christian Soldier defending the dearest Rights and Liberties of His country.”
This Memorial Day, let us once again remember the incredible sacrifices made by those who gave their very lives in defense of liberty. But let each of us also, perhaps for the first time, commit ourselves to becoming a “Christian Soldier,” who will defend freedom by giving everything in defense of the rights of the Almighty.