The Paper Pulpit
Memory has a very significant ministry in our lives. Who among us is not blessed by remembering precious moments from the past? I count past memories among my greatest treasures: many from my childhood; meeting, falling into love and marrying the girl of my dreams; the birth of our wonderful daughter, the birth of our grandson; and the birth of our two great-grandchildren (plus a third one on the way).
Even unhappy memories have a unique ministry in our lives if rightly used — such as the times I failed myself, others and God; the loss of twin sons in 1960, one who lived half an hour and the other an hour; a few difficult moments like those every pastor experiences — times when I learned to forgive, and be patient. I try never to dwell upon unpleasant memories from the past, but I do try to be stronger because of them.
What a wonderful blessing it is to be able to remember. All of us have visited family members or friends in nursing homes whose minds are unable to function, and we say to ourselves, “How tragic!” WHAT to remember and HOW to remember are two questions which often perplex us. But the fact that we can remember things is certainly to be counted among our greatest assets.
Even so, let me put in a good word for the gift of forgetfulness. There are many things we need very much to forget. Nations, as well as individuals, had better learn to forget certain things — not the horrors of war, lest we be guilty of that great sacrilege, the waste of sacrifice. But the old animosities we need to forget. In our nation we need to learn to forget blind prejudices against other races, or there will be a fearful price to pay. While we are often troubled by the things we cannot remember, the chances are great that we are even more deeply troubled by our inability to forget certain things.
There is an old fable about a king who was approached by a magician who offered him, upon certain terms, the gift of a perfect memory. The king told the magician he did not want a perfect memory, but that he would give him everything he possessed if he could teach him how to forget. Most of life’s richest opportunities are never accepted by us because our minds and hearts are cluttered with the scrap lumber from the trash piles left over from yesterday. While we brood about what is past and will never come again into the light of today, the chances to be prepared for tomorrow go unheeded and unaccepted.
Memories we have in abundance, but how many of them are of things that should have been forgotten a long time ago! If our memories are pathetic and not prophetic, if they have no windows toward sunrise, no wings of hope, no capacity to stir our inner being with power, no challenge to reach forth to better things, they need to be drowned in oblivion. Their presence crowds out the nobler, diviner, life-transforming memories.
Maybe you are unhappy because you have not been able to break free from something in your past. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can bestow on you the marvelous gift of forgetfulness. Christ can open up for the aridness of your life overflowing rivers of mercy and grace. God can give you the gift of forgetfulness, so that your memory may be transformed, disciplined, renewed. Are you willing for God to give you the gift of forgetfulness? Would you like to be free of the hurts you have felt at the hands of others?
The only way to master the art of forgiving is the way of Jesus: “Father, forgive them ...” How many marriages could be saved, how many churches made alive with power, how many individuals transformed, if only we could learn how to forget certain things? Why not ask God to give you the gift of forgetfulness? The secret is found in Ephesians 4:32. Look it up! You will be glad you did!
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.