There are many positive things about aging. Unfortunately I can’t remember what they are. That’s my problem. I can’t remember much of anything. And what I do remember can be inaccurately influenced by time, bias and suggestion. I am not alone.
Police officers experience this all the time. When eyewitnesses are questioned about whom they saw do the robbery, the descriptions indicate the crime was committed by a short, tall, black, Caucasian with short, long, brown, blond hair wearing blue sweatpants or a brown suit.
Most of us do not intend to shade the truth, but it happens sometimes. For example, if we tell an embellished story long enough, we may actually think it is true. If we are having difficulty with people, our minds magnify their imperfections. We even believe our fantasized ideas about how much better things were in years gone by.
Such was the case when the Israelites came out of Egypt. They groaned for deliverance for years because of their unbearable hardships (Exodus 1:8-22, 2:23, 5:7). Then, when God delivered them, they grumbled about how much better off they had been in Egypt.
When they didn’t like how God provided for them, they’d recall their distorted view of the good old days. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt” (Numbers 11:5 Easy to Read Version) and “It would have been better if the Lord had just killed us there! At least there we had plenty to eat” (Exodus 16:3). Yes, they may have had fish, but they also had oppressive slavery under cruel taskmasters. They were oppressed to the point that even their baby boys were killed at birth.
Later God would tell them to remember when they were slaves in Egypt. Remember that God delivered them to freedom (Deuteronomy 5:15). Remember what God did to Pharaoh and to Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:18). Remember how God led them through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 8:2).
This was more than exhorting them just to remember these things; it was telling them to remember accurately. “Be very careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live!” (Deuteronomy 4:9 New Living Translation)
Human memory is flawed. Life, even the Christian life, is not easy. When times get rough we might imagine it was better before God revealed himself to us. Not true. We forget how lonely, depressed, angry, hopeless or void of purpose we felt without God. We forget all God has done for us.
When my father had Alzheimer’s disease, sometimes he couldn’t remember much. When coherent he’d say, “I know you are my daughter, but I can’t remember your name.” Miraculously, however, he remembered God! He found comfort praying, reading the Bible and singing old gospel songs. We’d sing those songs together and he’d look at me and say, “You know, everything that song says is true. God is good!”
Sadly, I know I forget many of the wonderful things God has done for me. Fortunately my salvation is not tied to my faulty memory. God remembers me even when I forget him (Isaiah 49:15-16). But I want to remember. So I continually ask, “God, please help me remember your love, mercy, kindness and faithfulness to me and my loved ones, plus all those little prayers you answered immediately and the ones where you wisely did not give me what I wanted because you had a better plan.”
God remembers me—and I want to remember God.