Me? Amnesia? What a question!
Amnesia is defined as “a partial or total loss of memory” and though (no matter our age) we all tend to forget things from time-to-time. And we would reject the idea that we suffer from this issue based on the context where it usually appears for us regarding mental functioning.
We are all likely to agree that memory is important for many reasons beyond knowing where we left our keys or glasses. The Creator designed our brains with an incredible hard drive to store the memories of our life. Some of these memories bring a smile to our face and joy to our heart while others are ones we might wish to forget as they are reminders of pain, sorrow, mistakes, and failings.
Memory provides the building blocks of learning from the moment we are born. Memory about movement, speaking, meaning of words, and so much more begins to prepare us for the more formal education we will experience when we are a little older. It all makes sense, right? But memory is also important because it houses the history God intends we have at our disposal to guide us with today and the days after this one so that learning (just as when we are infants and toddlers) serves us well.
Mention the word history and some of us will likely make a groaning sound or scrunch up our faces because we may not have liked that subject in school. But every day we are a part of making history and our memories remind us of that history. Our history is just a part of the bigger history of our family, church, community, nation, and God’s kingdom.
In recent days some have decided that history is not important as it happened and should be rewritten or changed so we forget the mistakes made in the past. What an insidious deception. If we sow lies into what was, how can we be clear about who we are and use the consequences of those errors in the past to guide us to better choices and decisions in the future?
To choose to rewrite history that has already happened is a trick none of us should fail to recognize for what it is.
If we are honest with ourselves, the things that we remember most are often the things that were the hardest more than those that were successes that came easily. Those hard learned lessons are a gold mine of information that helps us from those difficult lessons onward.
Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Later Winston Churchill nodded to this when he is quoted as saying, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But it isn’t only philosophers and statesmen who remind us of this truth.
What happened in the history of mankind as recorded in the Bible when we failed to remember what God promised as well as the consequences of our failure to follow his guidance? Most of you can quickly recall story after story that point to the facts that it was never good. There is a biblical principle here that God wants us to recall. He doesn’t want us to continue to fall into the human habit of amnesia about things He has said, or we have learned along the way.
Certainly, this points to why memorizing scripture is helpful as well as reading the Bible so often that you come to know it without always having to look up the story that comes to mind. God used story to help us remember, you see. His stories are rich with meaning so even if we learned the story of David and Goliath 30 years or more ago, it is still there as fresh as it was the day we first heard or read it.
God’s story as written in the Bible is the longest running “top of the charts, best seller” book ever written(no matter how some may view it). It has survived as inspiration, guidance, and the grandest of all adventure telling of history most of us will ever read.
But it isn’t all that is key to why we must not fall prey to amnesia. Each of us have our own story and within it are not only the things that happened and how we felt about them but also the evidence of how God met us “back there”. That reminds us of God’s faithfulness for what we are facing today. Even though the challenges may be different, when we are tempted to wonder if God is paying attention to what is happening, He would want us to recall other times we may have felt that way and how He provided for us.
“Remember the former things, those of long ago;Isaiah 46:9-10 (NIV)
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say, ‘My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.’“
But you may say that God didn’t meet you or prevent you from experiencing something hard or painful, so it makes it hard for you to rest in the assurance of his faithfulness. The key here is that He may not have chosen to answer in the way we wished or preferred, but it didn’t mean He didn’t help us through the challenge. He doesn’t promise or say at any point that we will get our own way. But we must recall what the beavers told the children in Narnia in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe when they were wondering if Aslan was safe and if he could be trusted, “Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
What I know as I look back in my memory and my history, I see that some of the ways He answered were not what I thought I needed or wanted and yet they were the very things that shaped more of his character in me and caused me to know Him better.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)