I woke up a few days ago with the gnawing feeling that I was forgetting something. It was an important date, I knew, but why? I checked multiple calendars, thinking that maybe I had forgotten a friend’s birthday. I checked my appointments schedule—perhaps it was a doctor’s visit I had overlooked. But no, none of my friends were hosting parties, and there was no yearly check-up I had forgotten. I went to bed that night feeling uneasy, irritated because I knew that day was somehow significant, but I couldn’t remember why.
The next day, I realized what it was. It had been the day that, several years back, was supposed to have changed the trajectory of my life. It had been a day I had purposefully remembered at the time as a date when everything changed—or so I had thought. It was supposed to have been a new beginning.
Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.
Now that day is, to put it bluntly, just another day when just another dream began the slow process of dying.
Quite honestly, I think every day of our lives on this earth would be recalled that way if it weren’t for the unexpected gift of human forgetfulness. Half the time we simply do not remember that we could be mourning a loss or smarting from an old injury, so moving on is engendered by amnesia, not grit.
Sometimes we give amnesia a little nudge in the right direction. Chronic busyness, intense exercise, even an abundance of chocolate can help us forget the dreams that slowly bleed out. Sometimes we–okay, I—even write melodramatic blog posts about it in hopes of experiencing a shot of catharsis.
But death, whether emotional, mental, or physical, cannot be overlooked or clothed in sarcasm forever. We can only write so many suitably vague social media laments before we are forced to confront the fact that we don’t know how to deal with death. We exacerbate or downplay it, weighing our pain on some sort of scale governed by societal parity in order to discern if we are truly justified in feeling it. “Major” tragedies (such as the death of a loved one) may be mourned, perhaps, but “minor” tragedies (for example, the dissolution of a friendship) must either be bolstered with sufficient distress before we can feel vindicated about how deeply they bother us, or pushed down to fester, hide, and breed cynicism in the fertile soil of our own minds.
We don’t really even know how to mourn.
We sit in the wilderness, waiting for a clear call from God to reveal and relieve; but the more we think we are staring at the skies, waiting for the Divine, the more we are actually staring into the depth of depravity that engulfs our own hearts. The more I seek God on my own terms, the deeper I am gazing at my own navel. We think the will of God is a future event that we must pursue by changing vocations or making the correct decisions. We pray for Him to reveal His will in our lives, though often we are really asking for our dreams to come true. We page through our calendars, wondering when we’ll see the will of God accomplished, our major and minor tragedies resolved, our spiritual vision realized, our vocation finally revealed.
The more I seek God on my own terms, the deeper I am gazing at my own navel.
The echoes of Eden’s perfection tantalize us. We forget about the sin that is now coursing through our world and the bloodstream of every human. We think that if our intentions are right—and we can become experts at convincing ourselves that they are—we will achieve the desired result. Surely if our dreams are “good” they will come true. We long for the day when we awaken to find that we need not mourn the death of another dream.
But we are looking in the wrong direction.
The will of God was revealed in literal, actual history. On a night about two thousand years ago, God the Son was born to a virgin and her betrothed. Some thirty years later on a hill a little outside of Jerusalem, the will of God was laid bare as Immanuel who had taken on our human flesh took on the fullness of our sin. It was the Father’s will to strike, smite, afflict, and slay His one and only Son (Isaiah 53:10), the One who not only bore but had become our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
We may temporarily forget our sins and the deaths that we mourn, but the Creator of the Universe—the First Person of the Trinity—chose to forget His own Son (Matthew 27:46) so that our sins He will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34).
In the shadow of the cross, with the Savior’s blood and water gushing from His sacred side, we see our sins and failures for what they are. They aren’t things we can ignore, push through, or legitimize. In that Place of the Skull, we see no promise that our earthly visions will be realized. The fact is, practically every human dream will die. Some will linger slowly, drawn out over aching years, and some will be cut off suddenly and leave us reeling far longer than we care to admit.
But at the cross, we see the day that everything changed. We see a tomb that was occupied and then vacant three days later. The only relief we can find when what we love has been killed comes from knowing that Love Himself was killed—and didn’t stay dead. This is not a metaphor that our earthly desires must go through a season of challenge before they can be reborn. This is a verifiable, literal fact that for the one whose life is hidden in Christ, the physical resurrection will be an actual future event—accomplished completely extra nos, outside of ourselves. Because Jesus rose in actual history, we too will rise.
We who wait for His coming again may watch with tear-filled eyes and souls weary from nights of mourning. Whether troubles are forgotten for a time or tattooed on our consciences with the indelible ink of regret, we are engraved on the palms of the Savior who has promised to forget our sins but to never forget us.
We live each day in the grace of God, the rhythm of death and rebirth that was sealed upon us in our baptism.
No matter the date on the calendar, whether it is one we are desperate to remember or one we will do anything to forget, we live each day in the grace of God, the rhythm of death and rebirth that was sealed upon us in our baptism. We look to the past and see our salvation won; we live in the present, in the daily mercy of God that is new every morning; and we look to the future, when we will awake and live before the face of Jesus Christ forevermore.