Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Forgetting to Remember and Remembering to Forget

Remember:  to have or keep an image or idea in your mind of something or someone from the past

Forget:  to be unable to think of or remember something

She is constantly looking for her keys.  When we remind her that she does not have her keys, that they are safe with her husband she stops looking.  For about three seconds.  Then she begins looking for her keys again.  When she is reminded, as she is trying to make her escape out the door so that she can check on her folks and feed the dog, that her parents are not home and her dog is in good care, a look comes over her face of puzzlement and disbelief and then finally accepting that what I am telling her is true.  For about three seconds.  Working with victims of dementia has taught me a few lessons on what it means to remember and what it means to forget.

There are things I struggle to remember - like what I have to do today if I don't have it written down on a piece of paper or the calendar.  There are things I struggle to forget - my not so better moments, my mistakes, what my husband does that irritates me.

What I want to remember I frequently forget.  What I want to forget I can't stop remembering.


In 1994 I started getting serious about reading the Bible and I made it my goal to read the entire Bible in a year and the goal was met.  As I read, there was only one thing that I kept at the forefront of the journey:

   I asked God every time I opened it up that He would teach me who he was and I wouldn't allow myself to consult any other sources to explain something I didn't understand, I would just trust Him to show me who He was.

As I read I kept a yellow highlighter next to me and whenever something surprised me or spoke to me  in a way I hadn't seen before, I would highlight it.  I couldn't sit on a verse for very long that year because of the goal so I had to keep moving.  But the highlighted verses were a way of marking something that I wanted to go back and explore later, or the words really comforted me on a particular day and I didn't want to forget where to find it.

As the years have gone on I don't make it my goal anymore to follow a reading plan because I get stuck on words so much now that the joy and excitement I once had for a complete passage or chapter is now, many times over one word!  But those yellow highlights remain and they mark the places where I began to meet my true love.


What's interesting to me about being in a semi sound state like you and me (well you probably more than me) and someone with dementia is that we really still have a lot in common.  Like my friends who are constantly looking for their keys or trying to go home to check on their parents, I am constantly forgetting how faithful and trustworthy God really is with my life.  Sometimes, on the good days like my friends still have, I remember quickly and hold on to that longer than three seconds.  But many days I just can't forget to forget the anxiety and fears I have that God isn't faithful and that He isn't trustworthy and he has forgotten me.

I wish I could remember to forget instead of forgetting to remember.

Like my friends, sometimes the images we remember get stuck in our minds and sit in a time warp where all we can do is think on the past.  The mistakes, the pain, the disappointments, the struggles.  We rest in those places and the longer we sit in them and entertain them the harder it is to remember that God has left our past and we should too.

Unlike my friends, I can still come back to the present and remember that God is in my present and my past has been removed as far as the east is from the west.

That's why I like my yellow highlights.  They help me to remember the things I've forgotten and they help me forget the things I don't need to remember.   Until my new mind is truly new, the struggle to balance remembering and forgetting remains.  Remembering the past so that I can be reminded of God's faithfulness and trustworthiness is necessary, but forgetting to remember Him is like my friend looking for her keys or trying to go back to parents long since gone.

God has moved on from the past.  He is doing new things everyday in new ways.  Forget - really really forget - that He is not in your past anymore, so you shouldn't be either.



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