Memory is a fickle friend. When I need it most it abandons me. I’m not referring to all those times I forget to take out the garbage or call someone back. No, I am referring to something deeper than that – all those times I forget proven reality in the face of some upstart instance. Let me explain.
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Recently I asked my wife to read an article I had written. She thought it was no good, that I ought to scrap it and not even bother to re-write. That hurt. I was stung by her criticism. (Forget for a moment that I asked for her honest opinion.) I got angry at her. I argued my side of things. I implied that her opinion was baseless and stupid and then I got sullen. I felt as if she had undermined me as a writer and was tearing me down. All this because I forgot the proven reality: my wife is my greatest supporter and encourager as a writer and wants to see me be my best more than anyone else in the world. But in the face of the upstart instance of criticism all that faded and all I could see was the moment, the conflict. My memory had failed me.
The reality of the situation was that she was doing exactly as I asked, and this on top of months and years of building me up. Yet in the moment all I felt was torn down. Why? Because I wasn’t willfully remembering. Memory isn’t only what happens to come to mind as we turn our thoughts to past events; it is a purposeful act of looking back. It is intentionally recalling the moments that led to this reality. If we let memory come and go as it wills we are putting ourselves at the mercy of a flighty and foolish entity. No, we must take hold of it and push it to where it must go.
Poke through the Old Testament and you will see innumerable calls to remember – the law, the works of God, the failures of Israel and their disastrous results. Why should these be so often repeated unless people are prone to let memory come and go as it desires? Remembering is work. We must hold fast to what we know truly happened so that those moments which call reality into doubt are easily passed through.
And remembering is a kindness to others. If we recognize our own propensity for letting memories slip away it is only reasonable that others do the same. So we can remember for them. When we do so, we become a repository of reality, both hopeful and helpful. We remind them of past hopes and dreams to inspire or past failures and consequences to caution. And we need others to do the same for us.
Memory is not something that comes to mind. It is something we must work at for own good and the good of others. It is what anchors us to reality. It is worth the effort.