My mother-in-law had dementia. It was so sad to see the mind of a very sharp woman unravel into confusion and forgetfulness. She knew something was wrong, but did not know what was happening. Her confusion was due to the fact that the select button on her memory delivery system no longer worked. She was not able to control the difference between remembering and forgetting. That must have been so painful for her. I know it was for her family.
It seems to me that so much of life is defined by the things we forget and the things we remember. What good is it if I remember our anniversary, but forget my wife’s name? (I would never do that to you, Kathy.) I remember God’s goodness in the past, but that is often neutralized when I cannot forget my own sin, shame, and guilt. We may remember to give thanks for our family, but the sheen is taken off when we cannot forget (or forgive) a certain family member for what s/hehas done to us.
We must learn to develop a selective memory; to know the difference between what we should remember…
“You shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh…” (Deut. 7:18).
“You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years…” (Deut. 8:2).
“These stones shall be a remembrance to the people of Israel forever” (Joshua 4:70).
“Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24).
“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other…” (Isa. 46:9)
And what we should forget…
“Remember not the former things; do not consider the things of old. Behold I am doing a new thing…” (Isa. 43:18).
“Forget not all his benefits” ( Psa. 103:2).
“But this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind me and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Phil. 3:13).
My dear mother-in-law could not control her confusion, but we can. Thus while we still have the ability to do so, let us wisely choose between what we remember and what we forget. How many of us are defeated in our battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil because we focus on our own shame rather than on the forgiveness and faithfulness of God? We remember and forget the wrong things. We remember our former things that we should forget, and forget God’s former things that we should remember.
Perhaps we find all this impossible to accomplish because of how deep the rut of our shame runs. Maybe we need to narrow our focus onto the simple reality that God never gets confused as to what to remember and what to forget.
“Can a woman forget her nursing child…? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you (says the Lord). Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isa. 49:15).