How well do you remember things?
No, I’m not talking about your tendency to forget where you left your keys or when you scheduled that appointment. I’m asking how you remember important events and occasions by commemorating or celebrating them.
We all celebrate special days: for many of us, birthdays and wedding anniversaries top the list. Perhaps your list also includes the “anniversary” of the day you graduated, the day you met your best friend, or the day you started your job. For some of us, no anniversary is more significant than the day we said goodbye to a family member or friend.
How do you remember “spiritual” anniversaries?
I was reading in Deuteronomy last week and was struck by these phrases in chapter 16:
“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night” (Deut. 16:1).
“Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread… that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt” (Deut. 16:3).
“There you shall offer the Passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, at the time you came out of Egypt” (Deut. 16:6).
God commanded Israel to “observe the month,” to “remember the day,” and even to offer their sacrifice “at the time” of day when they left Egypt. The exodus was the event that defined Israel’s identity as God’s people, and God knew how important it was for them to commemorate that defining moment. They needed to always remember what God had done for them and who they were as God’s people.
And how were they to “remember” such a significant occasion? By throwing a party!
“You shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your son and your daughter… You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes” (Deut. 16:11-12).
“You shall rejoice in your feast, you and your son and your daughter…” (Deut 16:14).
Feasting as an act of worship? I could go for that.
As a church, we remember special days as a community. We commemorate the “anniversary” of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection each year at Christmas, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday. We gather on Sunday each week to celebrate the resurrection. Jesus told us to observe the Lord’s Table “in remembrance” of him (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24-25).
But this week, I’ve been thinking about how valuable it is to also remember personal “spiritual anniversaries.” It may be a less direct application of Israel’s feasts, but I think the connections are still relevant: it’s healthy to pause on the anniversary of significant life events for reflection, celebration, and worship as we remember what God has done for us. In this sense, we aren’t celebrating the event or occasion itself (“Yay! It’s your birthday!”) as much as what God did (“You are one of God’s greatest gifts; I’m so thankful God made you!”).
Here are a few ways our family has remembered and celebrated “spiritual anniversaries”:
- Each year on our wedding anniversary, Kay and I look back through our calendar from the previous year and write down significant events and memories in a family journal. This helps us to recognize connections and themes we might otherwise overlook and to remember God’s faithfulness to our family.
- Kay and I have both found prayer journaling to be a helpful form of reflection and worship at significant times of the year, such as physical or spiritual birthdays or the start of a new school year. Again, looking back through our journal helps us to remember God’s work in our lives and draws us to worship.
- We inherited from a mentor the practice of each choosing a “word for the year” each January. It might be a character trait we sense God is developing in us or something that we anticipate will be a theme for the coming year. This word often shapes how we pray and watch for God to work over the next twelve months.
For more ideas, check out this LifeWay article on celebrating spiritual milestones.
Next up on our family’s list of important events to remember: this weekend marks the one year anniversary of our move to Lafayette. We’ve been talking about how to celebrate it as a family: following Israel’s pattern, the tentative plan involves a feast (pizza and ice cream!), remembering together the events of how God brought us here, and sharing things we are thankful for about our new home and church family.
What anniversaries of God’s goodness could you celebrate?