Memory; September 20, 2022

Psalm 106:12-13 Then they believed his promises
and sang his praise.
But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his counsel.

This Psalm is one of several condensed histories of Israel found in Psalms, and all of them, in my recollection, touch on this particular point: the Jews had short memories when it came to the most important things. Memory is a fascinating study: what we remember, how we remember, and equally, what and how we forget. When we have encounters with God we are often overwhelmed and think we are forever transformed, but amazingly, after a while it can seem like those experiences never happened. It was long thought, and taught, that goldfish only had a 3-minute memory capacity, but that has been disproved, with goldfish trained to guide a robotic fish tank to take them where they wanted to go. (That’s a fascinating video!) Human memory is quite complicated, but there is clearly a difference between short-term memory and long-term memory. Yesterday I watched another video of a man, 97 at the time of the recording, talking about his experiences in WWII, and his memory was clear and sharp, leaving no reason to suspect inaccuracies. In contrast, it has also been demonstrated that we are quite capable of creating false memories, “remembering” things that never happened. There’s a whole field of study of that sort of thing, along with the fact that in a group experience, each individual will remember things somewhat differently. That’s why the question of our perception and memory of God is so important. It is arguably the most important thing in our whole life, but it’s not very reliable! That’s why we need to keep our relationship with God up-to-date, reading His Word and talking with Him daily. Failure to do that will not only allow our memories of our encounters with Him to fade, it will actually alter them, making them less impressive and important to us. That’s a terrible loss!

The whole issue of memory is very big in my awareness because of my wife’s brain surgery a few years ago. She had a large benign tumor removed, and it impacted her memory considerably. Long-term memory was largely intact, but names of people and things seemed to have been removed with the tumor. That was particularly distressing for someone as people-oriented as my wife. That has improved a great deal from the time right after the surgery, but she still has issues, and it’s depressing to her. Thankfully, she never lost her memory of me, or of her relationship with God. Being unable to string words together for her devotional writing for several weeks after the surgery was a trial to her precisely because she knew how important it was. Today, her writing is a real blessing to me as we share each morning. I’ve never had brain trauma like she has, but I too am all too capable of forgetting what is truly important. Forgetting where I put something or forgetting something I needed to get is frustrating but not ultimately vital. Remembering what the Lord has shown, told, and taught me is essential!

Father, thank You for this reminder (!). Thank You for being so faithful to remind me of what is really important. Help me indeed live it out, just like James said, (James 1:22) and grow as You intend, not retreating into pride and self-deception, so that Your plans for me may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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