What Good Are Forgotten Memories?
“When have I made you laugh?” My husband’s question hung between us. I smiled and quickly rummaged through ten years worth of experiences. I could imagine myself: doubled over from laughing, often at late hours in the night. I could feel the ache in my cheeks from smiling too much. I felt confident in the joy we’ve had through the years, but the isolated reasons wouldn’t come. What was it we were laughing about?
A handful of instances resurfaced but the rest remained irretrievable. Even though they were forgotten, their existence left their mark.
Scientists tell us our memory is like a web. As we learn and live our neurons fire off to make connections between various experiences and terms. We learn the word artist and begin to add tethers to give that word more meaning. Connections form to descriptions like paints, then maybe sculptures or clay as we experience new forms of art. Creativity, beauty, maybe even the stereotypical penniless is added to the mix, and the web continues to grow. As we experience each connection again and again, that link grows even stronger.
So it was with my husband. Through the some-four-thousand days we’ve been together, I’ve been linking chains to my husband. Each time he made me smile when I was down and each time we spent laughing until our sides hurt another connection fired off in my head. It deepened the connection between my husband and feelings of laughter and joy. I may not be able to recall each account that triggered it, but I feel the underlying effects. I know he makes me laugh because of the thousands of situations that changed me.
I wonder if this too is the way of the Lord. My walk with him is much longer, and the many memories of his goodness and kindness are sometimes even harder to recall. Sure, I know the big ones. Like the great Exodus from Egypt, or the crossing of the Red Sea, I add my great monuments of God’s goodness from my own life. I can recount the biggest trials God has held me through and displayed his loving-faithfulness. I think of them often.
Yet what of the small ones? What of all the sermons through the years that gave me just what I needed to hear? Or what of the comfort I felt in his care on an ordinary day of parenting or a difficult high school cross country practice? What of the answered prayers I no longer remember, or the small mercies time can no longer bring to mind?
What of our forgotten memories of faithfulness? Their existence still makes its mark.
The Israelites were reminded often of the mighty acts of the Lord’s faithfulness, but he reminded them of the small: “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years” (Deut. 8:4).
Mixed between the forty years of mighty miracles was the daily faithfulness of the Lord. While the Israelites couldn’t possibly remember each of those days, they continually added up to the one thing they would latch on to: Yahweh was faithful.
And we do the same. Our forgotten days etch their mark onto our brains and slowly make connections. Who is God? He’s faithful. Again and again the work of the Spirit tells us so and deepens the ties.
We may struggle to recall every report, but the reality of his faithfulness is there- like a word we know but have a hard time putting into a definition. The steady web created through years of faithfulness leads us to see our Lord as one we have known.
And these memories give us the greatest assurance. Day after forgotten day of taking in his Word, meeting with the body of Christ, and resting on him has taught us who he is. It’s not because we can articulate it all with pages of proof, but because we know it in our brain and our hearts. Each remembered and each forgotten day has cemented the reality of the Lord’s faithfulness. We know the Lord is faithful- like I knew my husband makes me laugh, but I couldn’t quite explain every instance.
In the most difficult times, this is all we have to hang on to. We cling to the God we have known, whose well-worn ruts in our minds lead to faithfulness, even when we can’t quite recall the why. The best news is of course that he is truly faithful (1 Thess. 5:24). It’s not subjective or debatable. Our forgotten memories imprint on us a true reality.
How has God been faithful to you? Think of those hundreds of moments you can’t recall. Our Lord is building connections into us each day and etching his faithfulness, his goodness, and his mercy into our brains and our hearts. And whether we remember it or not, it will leave its mark.
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