By Garrett Vickrey
Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45
Nobel Prize winning researcher Daniel Kahneman has come up with a theory as to how we experience and remember suffering. He studied the experience of suffering people went through during colonoscopy and kidney stone procedures. From this Kahneman deduced the “Peak-End Rule”. This rule considers the average of the pain experienced at two moments during these procedures— the worst moment and the very end.
The Peak-End rule seems to have a significant relationship to how we understand and remember the suffering we go through. Was it really that bad? How did we get through that? Could we do it again?
Sometimes our memory fails us. We remember only the worst moment of suffering. Or perhaps we focus on the end. When what we need to remember is the whole story.
Psalm 105 retells the whole story of the people of Israel. At least, it retells the defining narrative. Slavery and Exodus. Covenant and Fulfillment. Consider the importance of remember the story…
The Israelites had not even gotten out of Egypt before they began to forget that they were slaves. They already began to forget the pain of the whip marks on their backs. And they began to complain and say that they would be better off in Egypt than out here in the middle of nowhere with Moses.
That was not true. They were not remembering the whole story.
Psalm 105 recounts the story of Israel to help the people of God remember who they are in light of the greater story of redemption of which they are a part. It begins with origins— Abraham. Then the psalm recounts suffering in Egypt before redemption. Then there are the moments of grace along the way— water from a rock in the desert, manna, the pillar of fire that led them by night.
In someways this is a spiritual autobiography. It refuses to let unconnected events or the average of events define identity. And this should be a lesson for us in telling our story— in writing our autobiography of faith.
As we make our way toward the cross this season, this is the time to remember how God has been with you in the past. This is the time to take a look at your life and see the way God has guided you. Look at the narrative arc of your life and find the places that God has been with you along the way— in origins, in suffering, in moments of grace in your wilderness wanderings.
We all understand who are in light of stories. What stories help you understand who you are and who God is? Psalm 105 is a good place to start. Maybe we each need to write our own version this Psalm. That might help us to remember more than the peak and the end, so that we can see the greater story of how our lives intersect the story of God and creation.