As I walked past a construction area, I briefly caught the smell of cut lumber. It immediately transported me back to my childhood. My parents had an addition built on to the first house I ever lived in. Though I only carry a handful of memories from that house, the smell of cut lumber is one.
The smell of charcoal and lighter fluid is another fragrance that calls to mind days of yesteryear: Dad grilling on the back porch.
I laugh at myself when I realized that those two smells will confuse the boogers out of me if I ever develop dementia. Is that weird to think about?
If I tell you I watched three family members struggle with dementia symptoms before they passed, does it make more sense? Dad had Vietnam flashbacks, Grandma asked to see family members long ago deceased and PaSam… well, PaSam put jelly in his orange juice.
Memory, or the lack thereof, is a tricky thing. For example, let’s do a little experiment. Without looking anywhere but this post, can you say for certain where your car keys are? Your glasses? Your wallet/purse? Yeah. We have a tendency to forget important things and remember ridiculous things like when the next Hunger Games movie will come out (November 21, 2014), the waterskiing capital of the world (Winter Haven, FL) or the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show. (Bonus points if you just started whistling/humming to yourself.)
The Israelites were forgetful, too. Flip back through the Old Testament and see how many times He has them building things to remind them what He’d done. It started off with the rainbow (well, He made that one) but got more hands-on from there.
“What do you mean you broke the tablets?! Okay. Let’s try this again. But you’re writing it all down this time.”
“Have a representative of each tribe grab a stone… no, bigger. Bigger. That’ll work. Now put all twelve stones together in a fancy pile. Every time you look at this, remember how I helped you and your families cross this river.”
“Keep a jar of manna to remember how I provided for you.”
“The dead stick that budded? Yeah. Keep that, too, to remind you that I can bring dead things to life.”
“Don’t forget to pack the tablets, Moses. Sure. You can put them in ‘that snazzy box’ with the other stuff. Just don’t touch the box.”
“Build a tabernacle… A TABERNACLE… It’s a big, fancy, portable tent where I’ll hang out. It’s gonna have all kinds of symbolic things that lead you to worship me. Yes. I’m aware you don’t know what it looks like. I’ll give you blueprints, but YOU have to write them down. Maybe then you’ll remember…”
When they weren’t building things to help them remember, they were having community-wide parties to remind them. Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, Feast of This, Feast of That. They feasted to remind them of God’s faithful provision, protection and promises.
And they still forgot.
In the New Testament, Jesus began reminding His disciples before they even had a chance to forget. Before He ever hung on a cross He told them to take up their cross daily. “Huh?” Fishermen are such literal thinkers.
At the Last Supper, He broke the bread and shared the wine and told them to do the same, in His memory. “Uhhh… You’re right here, but okayyyy…”
God goes to so much trouble to tell His followers to remember. At the same time He’s striving to forget, which is more than difficult for the all-knowing Creator of the universe. In fact, that’s probably why He doesn’t call it forgetting, but rather “not remembering.” It’s a conscious decision, not a lapse in memory.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
If God makes a conscious effort to forget, shouldn’t we make an effort to remember?