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Memory

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” ~1 Corinthians 2:14-15

Sometimes I think that age is somewhat relative – and this may especially be true for those who must live under the influence of neuroborreliosis (a.k.a. “Lyme-brain”). For example, the calendar tells me that I am twenty-six years old, but in more than one aspect I am in a situation in life more akin to that of a seventeen year old. (Besides, I think there is a part of me that is always going to be seventeen…but that is beside the point…. :-) )

Anyways, I’ve been noticing lately that I’ve begun getting glimpses now and again of how a “normal” mind perceives and remembers things. That is interesting. But one of the strangest things about it is that whenever my spirochete-affected mind does get those vistas into “normal perception,” the last few years seem to become rather dim and actually difficult to remember, similarly to how a dream in the night becomes unclear and often has parts missing when you try to remember it upon awaking. It is as if the recently past season in my life has been lost in a sea of blurriness amid the warm, dull feeling of a feverish and inflamed brain.

But it isn’t only the past few years that I find difficult to remember. There are previous spaces of time in my life when the memories are limited and those that I do have all seem dim and unreal – times in which, as I now know, I was most likely under an increased influence of the microbial parasites which have dwelt in my body for so long. And it is not only events, but also things I have studied and learned in the past that have eluded me more and more as the systemic infection made progress deeper and deeper into my flesh. Now, by the grace of God, the inflammation is subsiding and many of these things I am needing to re-learn, as it were….

I’ve stopped to consider these things a number of times in the past few weeks because I’ve been noticing that my more recent memories are clearer and more real and I actually seem to remember things a little more properly of late. Actually, even day to day life seems more real, though it might sound strange to say it like that. All this causes a sense of wonder to come up within me…which also gives rise to considerations of what the Scriptures have to say about memory….

In addition, the recent passing of one of my grandfathers also has brought the significance of remembering into my contemplations. Due to his ill health over the past year, he had a great deal of time living in a fictitious, hallucinatory world layered over reality. His perceptions were frequently distorted, due to aberrations occurring in his body, which often presented the figments of his imagination to him as if they were true. And he responded accordingly, as anyone else might do, even though he was often aware that he was seeing things that other people weren’t…sometimes I think he thought we were crazy; while other times I’m pretty sure that he thought that he was going crazy…. On his better days, he certainly knew that something wasn’t right.

At any rate, in his case, as in mine, a less-than-healthy physical state affected both perception and memory. Nevertheless, the normative command of God still stands: we are called to be future-oriented people in context of the past. When the Psalmist expresses what he sees as the purpose of his salvation, he is describing this paradigm in action:“For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.” ~Psalm 56:13 

Our God is eternal and infinite, but we are creatures set into time and we cannot cross that line into knowing as God knows. Instead, we have been created as his image, having memory, recollection, and remembrance in order that we might know what God has done and build upon this increasing knowledge by acting in faith and confidence that his word shall be accomplished and that the name of Christ shall prevail in history – including in our own lives.

I once heard a pastor speak of the telling of “war stories” as a way of passing on to others, particularly to the next generation, what God has done in our own lives. If we are believers, spiritual warfare is real and we ought to draw hope from this, knowing that God does not abandon his children, but provides strength for them in the day of testing. If we are to tell war stories, that, of course, implies that we have a remembrance of what has happened – and not only a remembering, but an analyzing of it in light of the Scriptures. Our memories and remembrances – whether fresh in our minds or dim and blurry – serve to little real value if they do not turn our eyes to Christ. If we do not recognize sin and righteousness, gauging all things against the holy law of God, if we forget to acknowledge the providence of the Lord of history, if we fail to consider how the kingdom of God is built up or torn down by and in our own histories, all our remembering of no real use. Concerning this, I think that Moses spoke as an example for all of us when he prayed, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” ~Psalm 90:12 We are supposed to remember our days for the purpose that we might grow in the knowledge of the Lord….

There is also this phenomenon that can be described as forgetting to remember. This especially is the case about remembering the Lord and his commandments and our covenant duties and proper responses to our gracious God. This is also one reason why it is so important to remember what God has done in our own lives and in the history of his people. The delight in and study of the works of God (Psalm 111) is a buttress for our faith for the future, that God will accomplish his word – that he will provide for us, that the kingdom of Christ shall prevail on earth, that death shall be abolished, and many, many other things…. If we are not of a mind to tell spiritual war stories, we are trying to operate outside of the context of the kingdom of God. It is not at all an infrequent command in Scripture that the people of God are to remember certain things, as well as to actively not remember other things.

Yes, our gracious Redeemer Lord is sovereign and our proper, entire covenant duty towards him even includes the use of our remembrances. We are to love and reverence our great God with our memories, for this is part of what makes us up a whole person. Indeed, nothing about the Christian’s life is left unchanged by the power of the Word of Life, nothing is beneath the reach of the transforming power of the Christ, nothing in our nature is useless to the advancement of the kingdom of God – not even our memories…. So let us glorify God with them.

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