A conversation with one of my teenage sons sometimes goes kind of like this: I say, “Did you make your bed?” He gives me a blank stare, then races to his room spouting the words, “I forgot.”
“I forgot” covers for a whole host of less legitimate excuses, like “I really didn’t want to” or “it wasn’t that important to me.” My husband calls this “I forgot” syndrome the Forgettery, a place in the mind where we file requests or obligations that we just plain don’t want to do.
When we forget grievances, hurts, and disappointments, we find others more willing to overlook our own shortcomings.
“He must have filed it in his Forgettery,” my husband says, as my son slinks into the bathroom to hang up his bath towel.
“That Forgettery is going to be expensive,” I say. (I found that charging the boys 50 cents each time I have to do one of their chores is a good way to make responsible citizens of them.)
But every once in a while, the Forgettery works in my favor. One weekend, my older son took a shower in the early afternoon after mowing the lawn, with the understanding that he could skip his usual evening bath. For him, showering and smelling clean are not yet high priorities. I can count on more than one hand the times I had to do a “sniff” test and then send the offender back to the shower to do it over again.
This time, though, he forgot that he had already showered and ended up taking another one. I almost expected the sun to stand still and the earth to rotate backward on its axis. Never before had this boy cleaned himself up without complaining about it, not just once, but twice in one day. There was more to this Forgettery than I thought.
I, too, have a Forgettery, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve used it on more than one occasion. “Did you sew that button on my suit pants?” my husband asks.
“I’m sorry, honey, I guess I forgot,” I say. “You know, with all I’ve got going on…kids, school, cooking, cleaning…” He shakes his head and walks away, wearing his suit pants minus a back pocket button. He isn’t buying it, and I shouldn’t be selling it.
The Forgettery might seem handy at the time, but it usually ends up biting your backside. With my kids, it’s 50 cents and a mild word of reminder. With me, just knowing I’ve let someone down is punishment enough.
The Forgettery of forgiveness
But aren’t there things, biblically speaking, that we should forget? Like when somebody offends us, or is less than considerate to us, or lets us down in some way?
When it comes to the Forgettery, I guess, the real issue is what you put there. When we forget grievances, hurts, and disappointments, we find others more willing to overlook our own shortcomings. I’m hoping my button incident is lost deep in my husband’s Forgettery. Which means that I have to drop his dirty-socks-on-the-floor incident in my Forgettery.
God has a Forgettery, too. Psalm 103:12 describes it this way: “He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west.”
I’m reminded of Edmund, in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Although Edmund had betrayed his siblings and fallen prey to the White Witch, Aslan made certain to let Edmund know his betrayal was forgotten. “Here is your brother,” Aslan said to Peter, Susan, and Lucy, “and there is no need to talk to him about what is past.”
Most of the time, our hurts and disappointments are not of the magnitude inflicted by Edmund on his brother and sisters. They’re more of the daily irritations that come from people living with people.
Sometimes the hurts we suffer are hard to forget. If Peter, Susan and Lucy were real people, I’m sure they would have had trouble forgetting what their brother had done to them. Even though God completely forgets our sins, forgetting is not so easy for us, whether it’s damage we’ve suffered at the hands of others or guilt over our own past.
I take comfort in Paul’s words: “Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven” (Philippians 3:13b-14, New Living Translation). We aren’t alone in our struggles to forget things that need to be forgotten. The trick Paul reveals is that not only can we forget, but we can also look forward to what lies ahead — “I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be” (verse 12, italics mine).
So the idea of a Forgettery isn’t such a bad one. (After all, God himself has one — a totally righteous and awesome one.) The key is what you put in it. If my husband forgets that I forgot to sew a button on, and if I forget how he forgot to pick up his socks, well, that might just help reduce the friction between us that comes from living together. And it might give just a little taste of what it will be like when we’re all that Jesus wants us to be.
Nan Kuhlman is a member of the Fort Wayne, Indiana, congregation. She lives in Defiance, Ohio, with her husband and three children. When she’s not homeschooling her kids, she enjoys writing for a local women’s magazine.