Most people who know me would tell you that I have a good memory. I am well aware that my father had one until his death when he was 84 years old. I hope that I have those genetics and God’s blessing in this area. I am not referring to the memory I wanted to cultivate when I was a student, memory to pass an exam or respond well in a course discussion.
I want to have a good memory to stay in touch with the life I have lived and the people who have intersected it. Each of them has played a role that the Lord has used to shape my life whether he or she meant to do that. They have done so even if he or she was not “for” me. Each of them has become a part of my story.
What is so key to me is how each was used to impact my relationship with the Lord. Sometimes it was positive in impact, but at other times the words or actions were negative. The Lord used both to draw me closer to Him. It’s that golden thread in my story that is really His story that I don’t want to forget.
It can be easy to believe we are either born with a good memory or we aren’t. But despite any genetic tendencies we have, we all can influence and cultivate our memory no matter what age we may be. Like most things, our memory improves with exercise. (Check out Dr. Daniel Amen’s recent book, Stones of Remembrance, for an example.)
What goes into our memory does so through a process called encoding. Educational research describes the process this way:
“Encoding is the crucial first step to creating a new memory. It allows the perceived item of interest to be converted into a construct that can be stored within the brain, and then recalled later from short-term or long-term memory. Encoding is a biological event beginning with perception through the senses.”
When someone credits me with a good memory, what he or she experiences is in part my resolve to encode important people and events in ways that allows me to remember more easily than forget. I use a variety of aids in my relationships in the hope of suceeding. One easy example is that when I am getting to know someone, I try to specifically recall unique things I learn through listening and observation that I associate with him or her. I invariably make a note in my calendar of dates that are significant to the person: birthday, anniversary, or a death of someone precious. I also pay attention to whether coffee or tea is ordered, the kind of music chosen on Pandora or Spotify, and sometimes the name of a pet. I don’t always succeed with my effort, but practice helps and so do association clues.
The crucial memory issue for us is what we maintain of what we know about God’s story. We learn it through many means, but one central one is through His Word. Those biblical stories and truths come to us through worship, sermons, classes, and interactions with other believers. What brings these all together in a powerful way is when we resolve to take time to read that Word ourselves and interface with it by putting ourselves in the story. These sensory pieces of encoding help us to ingest the Word in significant ways.
Over and over again we see how the people of God (from Genesis to Revelation) forgot who He was, what He was like, His goodness, and sovereignty. That can be easy for each of us when we face a crisis, walk through a long trial that seems to have no end, or experience deep disappointment in someone or something. It can be easy as well when we read the headlines or watch or listen to the news. Too often it appears the “bad guys” are winning and we wonder where God is in the midst. Has He forgotten what’s going on down here on earth?
Those things start to add up and if we add any disappointment in the church, our brothers and sisters in the Lord, or our ministry leaders those questions echo more loudly.
God would want us to call to mind the truth woven into every page of the Bible, every story whether the key character is a hero or a villain.
As I was reading in the book of Esther, putting myself in the Persian city of Susa where Jews were a minority and faced many threats, I wondered how I would face such threats. I looked at the descriptions of the city and its people. I also noticed how again the story of good versus evil played out over and over again. King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes) is no longer on the scene, but a brief review of the world and we can find many other godless leaders ruling and reigning.
Then I read the notes in the current Bible I am using and I was reminded of this key truth:
“When everything seems to be under the control of a godless despot; when God’s people, because of their own sin, have lost all memory of Him, of their true identity, and of their land, God is nevertheless at work to fulfill his promises of ultimate triumph over his enemies. The triumph of God’s kingdom is not dependent upon the faithfulness of God’s people. Even when they think that the only way to survive is to blend in or keep quiet. God is yet willing and able to deliver.
The Lord scoffs at the seemingly invincible power of political parties, great armies, or immense wealth. With ease He displays his manifold wisdom to the ‘rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.’ He is ruling sovereignly, accomplishing his purposes whether we see Him or not.”
We may not see Him, but let us not forget He is there. Let us seal in our memory the certainty of His truth and the victory He gives through His glory and power, His grace, mercy, and love.
In the Old Testament his people were to write his words down and wear them on their arms and heads to remember. That was not always effective. He came in the flesh so we would have the truth written and resident in our hearts, minds, and spirits.
Let us never forget.