“I teach middle school.”
This statement, which I provide in response to the questions “so, what do you do?” or “what’s your job?” usually evokes a variety of responses. These range from handclasps of sympathy to looks of admiration to the occasional empathetic chuckle — the last reaction mostly from parents or fellow teachers. Most people seem to be either slightly afraid of the preteen age range or have blocked that era of life from their long-term memories.
For reasons sometimes unknown even to myself, seventh grade was one of my favorite years of life. I awkwardly grew about three inches in one year, and my most prominent accessory was a stunning display of braces. But my favorite memories include making great friends who represented a variety of ethnicities and cultures, eating lots of cake in German class, and playing the flute under the direction of both a skillful private teacher and a driven-yet-humorous band director. In short, I filtered out the bad and focused on the good, whether at that age I realized it or not. I remembered the good.
I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah and am struck by how many times the word remember appears. While I haven’t gone through a formal commentary on the book, I did a quick search of the word online and found 15 passages in Isaiah containing this word. One particular passage, Isaiah 43:18-19; 25, has been on my mind recently:
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert … I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (ESV).
God blots out our transgressions for His own sake. And He chooses not to remember our sins. When I dwell on that passage, I am almost immediately confronted with the fact that I, so very often, choose to remember someone’s sin, real or perceived, that affected me or caused me distress. Instead of remembering the “good” — that God forgives me when I confess my sin and then blots it out — I instead remember the “bad.” I am beginning to realize how a conscious shift in my thinking would affect every relationship I have. What if, instead of remembering that “one time” a friend said something hurtful in college, I instead dwell on the many good times we had together? What if, instead of remembering a student’s misbehavior, I focus my thoughts on his or her humor and joy?
I am hopeful that each day I will grow in this mindset of remembering — not denying sin, hardships, suffering, pain or hurt, but choosing to put my thought-energy into remembering the good. And I have a suspicion that the more good things I intentionally dwell on, the more will come to mind.
Ashley Plitt lives in Northern Viriginia; she can be found teaching literature to middle schoolers, reading, running, cooking, and spending time with friends and her fabulous husband of three months.
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