Most of us have a remarkable ability to forget. It's what enables us to take new risk. Having been burned in one relationship, as the pain begins to recede in our memory, we may find ourselves taking a chance on a new relationship.
When my daughter, Emily, was young, she fell from the pony she was riding and was drug along the ground for 100 yards. She was banged up and bruised and done with horses. But eventually, as that memory became less painful, she was back up and riding again.
Forgetfulness can be a gift. Pain needs to be put in context for life to continue. But it can also cause us to lose the things in life we hold most precious. For example, we can lose track of the goodness of God.
The story of God and man is the story of man's forgetting. It didn't take Adam long to forget God's goodness. The Israelites kept forgetting the way God had blessed them as they trudged through the wilderness.
They proved what we know from our own experience: When the balance of pain in our lives tilts away from God, we can forget his blessings.
But here's the thing – our lack of recent experience doesn't invalidate his reality. Truth remains truth even if it's muted by time and adversity.
Knowing this, we need strategies to remember. The Israelites practiced remembering the goodness of God through the feasts they scheduled throughout the year. The liturgies in our churches are a means of collective remembrance. The creeds and prayers we say together are in a way mnemonic devices forcing our minds away from the sea of forgetfulness.
The very act of assembling together as a community of believers is a celebration of memory over spiritual entropy, helping us to see God more readily. Our communities bring together the various members of the body of Christ. In getting together, we re-member Christ's body.
On any given day, I'm likely to receive an email from a blog reader who has encountered pain, is depressed, and is fighting to not forget God's goodness. I want to help them fight, but myself grow weary. I think, "What good will my lousy little encouraging email do them?" Right now I have two long emails in my inbox like that awaiting my response…
Perhaps you are on the back slopes of a mountain of God's goodness. If so, what do you do to fight the attrition of memory? I keep an "encouragement file" to help me remember. And I collect stories that boost my memory. For example, this cardiologist who died and returned to life. Though he was brain-dead, he saw heaven. When he was eventually resuscitated, his belief in God and the afterlife was unshakeable.
I keep journals that remind me of how I felt when I experienced the reality of a God who loves me. My 1991 journal records how God spoke to me in ways that blew me away – when I read it, my confidence in God's goodness gets a turboboost.
I know that I know that God is good. I know that he loves his children. And I believe that even though he may not have shown you his goodness lately, still he loves you with an unshakeable love.
When was the last time you experienced the goodness of God? How are you fighting against the tide of forgetfulness?