I don’t know about you, but these days I can travel from one level of my house to the other – I’m talking 14 steps – and lose complete focus concerning why I made the journey. In all honesty, I can walk 4 steps from the kitchen sink to the pantry and stand there in puzzlement wondering why I made that brief trip. Usually I can retrieve the lost information by mentally retracing my steps, but I’m not a complete stranger to actually retracing my steps to recall those elusive, vaporous thoughts. A friend of mine, a fellow mental health professional who has been in the field for thirty years, assures me that momentary forgetfulness is part of normal aging, but in a vain attempt to fight off ‘normal forgetting,’ I swallow ginkgo biloba daily…when I remember to take it!! These small lapses of memory trigger annoyance, sometimes even embarrassment, but in the vast scope of things, they aren’t necessarily life-altering.
Five years or more ago, my mother was driving to see a dentist who had been treating her for twenty-five years. She lost her way; her brain could no longer connect the necessary dots to get her to her destination. Apparently, mom had had several other incidents closer to her home, incidents which my brother, husband and I were unaware, but this one frightened her enough to call me. That was the beginning of our passage into the land of forgetting. It is very difficult to believe that it has not been ten years instead just over five.
Fast forward to this week. Now, Mom’s memory is like lightning bugs in the dark of night, flashing on and off at will. Yesterday, for the first time, she did not remember her great-grandchildren’s names, or which great-grandchildren belonged to which grandchildren. It’s difficult to explain how much family – meaning, since my dad’s death, her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren – mean to her…as in, they are the only people who mean anything to her! For all of my life, due to mom’s miserable childhood, she had no time and little affection for anyone outside of our immediate family. She had a lot of emotional and mental damage, but she was fiercely, and at times admittedly, unhealthily loyal to her family.
This fierceness, this sense of love and loyalty has been stripped from her with the gradual, yet perpetual erasing of her memory.
In this world, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or brain injury resulting in memory impairment are all heart-wrenching tragedies, losses of momentous and immeasurable proportions. I know; I’m witnessing it week after week, year after year. It’s an ongoing, relentless assault on the person who loses it and on the family who surrounds that loved one. Every week is a new normal.
However, yesterday I was reminded of a completely different perspective on memory, a heavenly perspective, if you will. In his book, God Came Near, Max Lucado asked the question, “If He [God] didn’t forget, how could we pray?” His question confused me for a minute. What do you mean, ‘How could we pray?’ We just PRAY! I talk to God and I listen to Him and I ask Him to forgive me and…
Then I read on. Lucado had been listing his sins to God, sins for which He had been forgiven, and thanking Him for His mercy. He came with a grateful heart, but still…Lucado felt the need to remind God of his “stumbles and fumbles”.
I’ve done that, too, rehearsed my sin list, my walk of shame with God, especially if I have fallen into the same area of sin yet again.
However, this particular time, as Lucado was about to recount another forgiven sin for God to remember, he was suddenly struck with how ludicrous the entire concept was! Scripture is clear that God’s covenant brings not only forgiveness, but also the Father’s forgetfulness.
For I will forgive their wickedness and I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12, NIV)
As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12, NIV)
Ah, but I remember my sin…things I wish I could forget…that lie when the truth was too painful or embarrassing; my anger erupting like lava on someone I love with words used as swords that slice the heart; withholding needed service or love in a self-protective shell when God has called me to give of myself…the enemy whispers, “Remember when you…?”
Thank God, with repentance comes sure and full forgiveness – and His forgetfulness.
“…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18, NIV)
Why? Because I deserve it? Nah; I can never DO enough to deserve it. He sort of set up the new covenant that way and for that, I am most grateful.
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more. (Isaiah 43:25, NIV)
Can we do a little Hallelujah dance here?
To be sure, losing our precious memories in this life is a sad, sad thing; but I am eternally grateful that my Father has chosen to suffer from memory loss where my sin is concerned. What about you?
…”I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. i will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34, NIV)