The Battle of Remembering

When the time came for me to attend college, I knew what local institution I wanted to attend.  I also knew that neither I nor my family could afford it.

I had hoped to earn a full scholarship with my academics, and so applied.  Only when applying did I realize that my ACT score, of all things, fell just slightly below the application threshold.  I applied anyway, reasoning I might be able to cobble together enough scholarships to make it work.  We prayed and mailed the application off.

Weeks later, I opened an envelope announcing that I had, indeed, earned the full scholarship.  Sometime after the excited screaming and yelling calmed down, my mom and I looked up the scholarship requirements again, amazed I had earned a scholarship in spite of my ACT score not meeting threshold.

But when we saw them, the scholarship requirements had changed: the minimum threshold had become the exact score I earned on the ACT.

Times like that—when God’s intervention is so blatant, so gloriously obvious—are hard to forget.  That moment, the sudden shift in my mother’s awful cancer diagnosis to something manageable, the time a car that was literally about to plow into my husband and I on the interstate jerked away last-minute: those are the interventions we remember.

But I have been thinking lately about little things.

Thinking about how, one night in college, I sat up until bed until 4am with tears dripping down by face listening to Jars of Clay’s Eleventh Hour and feeling overwhelmed with a sense of how sinful I was and how redeemed I was and how much I owed God.

Thinking about how, on a trip when my husband and I drove through the Cattaraugus reservation, we had a strong sense of God drawing near to us during what at the time was a very difficult period.

Thinking about how I journaled seven nights in a row about a minor work misery, begged God to resolve it, and learned on the eighth day that he had.

Thinking about the hundreds of times I’ve prayed for someone’s healing or a major decision or a significant issue and felt far less impressed than I should that God had worked it out accordingly.

God’s memory is long, and deep, and misses nothing.  But my memory is so short.

All of the people on the planet who live or will or have ever lived, God knows intimately.  He knows me, my little speck of a life, the number of hairs on my head and how many tears I have cried, and he holds me valuable.  I am not a number, or part of anonymous crowd.  God knows my name.  God has a name for me, that I don’t know.

And yet, I struggle to remember what he did for me eight weeks ago unless he blew the lid off the sky.

Whenever I become discouraged or anxious, I struggle with the sense that God is not intervening.  Some part of my mind has the notion that if he was paying attention, I’d somehow know, and the knowing would dislodge all of my discouragement and concern.  But I do know.  I just have the strange amnesia of being human, the ability to witness the direct influence of God on my life and then say, “huh,” and promptly forget it by dinnertime.

I can tell you the title of the first book my husband ever brought me as a gift.  I can remember what t-shirt he was wearing the day he proposed.  I remember that I wore Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers when I was in middle school, and I can remember the word-for-word jokes from no less than twenty Seinfield episodes.  Somehow, thanks to Dr. K, I still have the entirety of the prologue of The Canterbury Tales memorized—in Middle English!

But I forget God all the time.  I forget who He is, what He’s done, where He’s been with me.

I’m sure it wounds Him.  But I am equally sure He knows and understands it, this God who grabbed his followers in the Old Testament and told them to stack some stones together before they forget everything He just finished doing for them.

Recently, a small thing happened that I have been praying about for a long time.  It was a personal desire, a simple little want: nothing particularly holy or virtuous, just one of those tiny dreams.  And then, out of nowhere, God indulged it.  And as I reflected on the joy of this desire being met, I thought, You remembered!  I’ve been praying about this for ages.

Of course I did.  Because He does not forget.  Will not forget.

I keep apologizing.  I keep forgetting.  The more I comb my memory the more I realize I’ve lost.  When I was seven, I was terrified to go out of state on my own, and prayed for God to send my mother on the trip.  He did.  I had forgotten that until I saw a newscast from that city the other day.  In my college dorm room, my friend Sarah sat with me, looked up from her Bible, and said, “That guy you talk about so much?  God is making it really clear to me.  You’re going to marry him.”  (I did.)    In high school I attended a Bible study with my mother and I remember how clearly we felt the presence of God and wept there together.

But God’s mercies are new every morning.  And He will keep giving more for all that we forget.  He knows our memories are short, our minds human, our hearts forgetful.  He knows that there is no way we could possibly ever, in one mind in one lifetime, remember all the little things He did for us even if we wanted to. 

And so He just keeps doing them.

Before I finish here, a tip:

If you are the type of person who keeps a daily planner, like me, grab a set of stickers or a good pen or a stamp or something, somewhere that lets you leave a distinctive mark on the different days.  And when God reaches out to you?  When God makes His presence known in whatever way on whatever day?  Mark it down.  Write a quick note.

Battle against forgetting.  Because the Lord is good indeed.


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