The Problem of Spiritual Short-Term Memory Loss

forgettingWe were just innocently waiting for one of our favorite TV shows to begin.  I made the mistake of flipping the channel to a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.  I should have known better.  Those four words are almost as pleasing to my wife as Based on a True Story.  And, if the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie is also based on a true story…well you figure it out.  Needless to say, The Mentalist was relegated to the DVR as we succumbed to a Hallmark movie about a guy named Gus who has daily short-term memory loss due to a brain aneurysm.  Sleeping and waking wipes away all of his short-term memories (everything that he experiences since the aneurysm).  It was quite sad.  Poor Gus could never feel like he was moving forward in life since he had to virtually start from scratch every day.  He had to put post-it notes all over his apartment, and leave himself voice messages to re-learn his relationships and activities.  Most distressing of all was that he would forget that he had a girlfriend and therefore had to “fall in love” with her all over again each day.  I know that kind of sounds romantic, but it was devastating.  The movie made you extremely thankful for your ability to remember, even though you forget things from time to time.

After wiping away a few typical Hallmark-induced tears, I started to think about how we Christians often act a lot like Gus, spiritually speaking.  We get up in the morning and forget what the Lord had done for us the day before.  We forget the lessons we just learned from the sermon or our Bible study.  We forget God’s grace and God’s commands.  We don’t remember to treat our spouses or our children with love and respect as we did the day before.  We almost act like we have to learn our Christianity all over again each day.  No wonder we often feel like poor Gus, unable to get our lives moving forward.  Living with spiritual short-term memory loss makes us look a lot like the non-Christians next door.

Forgetting has always been a real problem for God’s people.  Just read the Old Testament, for starters!  Israel is warned over and over again not to forget their covenant with the One True God.  In Deuteronomy 4:9, we read:  “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—”  And in Deuteronomy 8:11, “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today…”  And again in Deuteronomy 8:17-18, “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

Now there are several reasons why Christians suffer spiritual short-term memory loss.  For one thing, we are human beings with weak, fallen minds.  We do genuinely forget things that we’ve just learned.  But forgetting can also be due to an active rebellion in our hearts.  Our sinful hearts can jettison the truth from our minds and replace it with lies.  Or, we really aren’t committing truth to memory, nor paying attention to the important things in life.  Finally, we may be experiencing short-term memory loss because we are not teaching our children God’s Word and what He has done in our lives (Deuteronomy 4:9).

So what’s the cure for spiritual short-term memory loss?  Maybe we should take a cue from my new best friend, Gus.  He needed post-it notes all over his house, photos to remind himself of relationships, and even voice recordings of the most essential things in his life.  We need the same.  Christians have to read God’s Word daily in order to remember.  We need to preach the gospel to ourselves every day.  We need to hear sermons and Bible lessons over and over again.  We need to be reminded each day of who we serve and whose we are.  We need to teach our children and youth God’s Word (they are forgetful beings too, right?).  In a sense, we do need to re-learn and remember our Christianity every day!

“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deuteronomy 6:6,8-9)


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