One of the wonderful things God has provided for us is memory. I am well aware of the fact that it can be detrimental as you remember things that were hurtful, painful, and over time scarring to your life. On the other hand, there are a lot of wonderful things that God gives us by giving us a memory. It seems as though — and it’s mostly just observation — God gives some people far better memory than He does others. It seems also certain that the older you get, the less memory you have. I’ve heard folks say their memory is what they use to forget with, and others have made the observation that it’s strange how their forgetter works a lot better than their rememberer.
For me, I notice very little I don’t remember, or at least that’s what I thought, but the more I pondered that the more I realized I wouldn’t remember if I didn’t remember. Strange, isn’t it? The Bible has so much to say about remembering. In fact, over 120 times in the Old Testament God says to remember. When you get to the New Testament, over 25 times the Bible says to remember. All through the wonderful book of God, He reminds us to remember.
What is happening in us as we grow older that we begin to have memory non-moments? I used to think about things and could remember them, but now they are not so sharp in my mental vision and sometimes the memory moments just become non-moments because we can’t pull it up. Why these lapses in our brain structure?
One, I think, is the sheer volume of stuff we have to remember. As you go through life, the amount never gets less; it just gets exponentially bigger. For instance, just take your family. In my family, my wife and I had three children. As they got grown and chose a mate, the three quickly became six children-related beings. After some time, there were eight grandkids that came along; so the three became six, then fourteen, and then all of their friends, acquaintances, and experiences that they were involved in and family stuff… You begin to see the volume of information you’ve got to recall and keep in order becomes huge.
The same is true at work. For me, when I began as a pastor 55 years ago, I was expected to (or expected of myself, at least) to know every member and every prospect and every community leader and on and on. After all these years and having the privilege of being in so many of our 2,100 churches across Mississippi, you begin to see that the number of people and their experiences and their connection to you and where they are from and where they are going comes to be a pretty good sized load of information. That’s just a couple of areas of life. The longer you live, more and more and more comes to be a part of your brain structure. You may worry about not being able to remember, but my goodness, you’ve got so much to remember that you wonder if it’s even possible.
Another reason for the lapses is not only because of volume, but because of vacancies. I’m certainly not a neurologist or someone who understands all about the cranial corpuscles that make up our brain, but like other parts of our bodies cells die off and change. You may even end up with less than you started with. I had read that the cells in our bodies replace themselves, all of them, over a seven-year period. If that be true, it just well may be some of your new brain cells don’t know as much as your old brain cells and there are some vacancies in your remembering. It is amazing to think about the fact that if our brain cells all do change, how in the world do they remember things that happened 50 years ago? Even with the vacancies, we can function pretty good.
A third thought about why the lapses come has to do with things that vanish. Just vanishing stuff. The other day my wife and I were driving down the road and she said shockingly, “That building’s gone!” A building that we had passed by thousands of times, were in and around pretty often because it’s near our home, was just gone. There was just a flat piece of dirt where it was. It made me think that there are things we have in our lives that just vanish, go out of existence. We wonder why we can’t remember it. Well, it’s not there is why we can’t.
God wants us to remember and it helps if we can remember, so what do we do about it? Let me give you three quick helps. The first help would be to pay attention. You may recall that back in elementary school grades one, two, and three — maybe even into middle school years — you were encouraged to pay attention. The teacher would tell you to pay attention. Sometimes, boys and girls get involved in something happening in the classroom and they are not paying attention. You’ve got to concentrate to pay attention.
It’s amazing how what they tried to teach us in elementary school and all through school and all through life and maybe even somebody that wants to tell you to work, pay attention, that it helps. It helps to focus your attention and thought processes on what is really important and not just sitting around daydreaming.
A second help I would give you is this: Keep Thinking. If you wonder what I mean by that, look for things that are new thoughts. Things that you don’t normally think about. Maybe you’ve never thought about them. When you come across something like that, walk down that road a little further. It may have to do with life, finances, or government with Bible truths or eternal thoughts that never have come across your mind. Think about them. Spend some time meditating on it and let it refresh your mind with thoughts that you never have had before.
A third help I would give you is… well, I can’t remember what the third thought was but I know it was good. Maybe in the days ahead if I can pull it back up, I will share it with you because it’s probably the most important thing to help you remember. I really didn’t have a third thing, but the one thing that I would keep your mind focused on is living for Jesus today. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
Follow Him. He will use and bless you and you will remember Him and in so doing what He wants you to do.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.