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Posts Tagged ‘forgetting people’s names’

Jo 12For quite a few Christmases, I have worked hard at perfecting a certain little trick with my mind—the art of deliberately forgetting. Now I can already forget many things without much effort. For instance, this Christmas, when the time came to put our grandchildren’s presents under the tree, I discovered I had forgotten where I had hidden several of them. Then after finally locating them, I found I had no idea what was in those carefully wrapped parcels!

The older I get too, I find I am improving at forgetting people’s names. How embarrassing it can be, when I find myself unable to introduce someone whose name I was told only moments earlier! Then recently, while reading the Psalms again, I was a little shocked to discover some key verses I had almost forgotten hidden away there. How could I do that? How could I forget Psalm 52:8, for example:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

Or Psalm 55:22:

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Or Psalm 56: 4:

In God whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?

So why would I want to fine hone this skill of forgetting things any further? Well, the reason I do this each Christmas is to help out my husband, who is often stumped for gift ideas for me. So if I see something I would like for myself for Christmas, I buy it—providing it’s not too expensive, that is! Usually it is a book—perhaps a new one by a favourite author or one a friend whose opinion I trust has recommended. But once the checkout person puts that book in its carry bag, my little forgetting trick comes into play. There is a way, I have discovered, of not letting my mind dwell on that purchase anymore, of choosing to delete it from my memory—perhaps not completely, but close enough to it. If I tried, I’m sure I could recall the author of the book, although the title might escape me. But … why would I want to? After all, why spoil the lovely surprise on Christmas morning when I am presented with my gift and discover it is just the sort of excellent book I love to read?!

There are much more important things, however, than Christmas presents bought for oneself that God challenges us to forget or not hold onto—past failures, past regrets, past sins already forgiven as we have come to God in repentance. How wonderful that, by God’s grace, we can let go of them instead and move on with a light, joyous step, looking forward rather than back, as the prophet Isaiah challenged the Israelites to do:

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:18-19

So as you step into 2019, what is God challenging you to remember that will strengthen you and give you much needed wisdom and peace? But also … what things might be better to forget?

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Now it’s not that I’m old or anything. In fact, I don’t feel that way at all. I have too many ideas in my head to risk getting old quite yet. But now and then, I do notice I have a little difficulty remembering people’s names—sometimes even the names of the characters in my own novels! It can be embarrassing when someone tells me enthusiastically how much they loved Steve or Susan or Alexander in one of my novels. I try my best on these occasions not to look blank and ask ‘Who?’ But the truth is, I may well have created another whole set or two of characters since then, so I’m bound to get mixed up at times.

So when I saw the term ‘recollection’ in a book I had begun reading, ‘Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey into Meditative Prayer’ by Richard Foster (IVP 2011), I was immediately interested. I have read quite a bit about prayer and soon noticed that Foster quoted from several other authors I enjoyed, such as Francois Fenelon, Madame Guyon, Catherine de Hueck Doherty, Thomas Merton and others. Yet I could not remember having come across this term ‘recollection’ before this. Could it refer to thinking back over our lives and remembering all the ways God had rescued us and blessed us, I wondered? That was bound to be it.

But then I read on. Recollection, according to Foster, ‘involves a re-collecting of ourselves until we are unified or whole. The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we have become truly present where we are.’ Now I know, and Foster warns, that this is not an easy thing to do. But what a wonderful, healing practice to try! In our busy lives, it is so easy for us to become fragmented and scattered, with our energies dissipating this way and that, so that we almost lose our real selves in it all. As for me, I know I’m very good at skipping ahead in my mind to things coming up in the future, wondering how I will do this or that. And I’m also very good at mulling over the past, remembering the hurts or the failures or the difficult times. But the present? Well, sometimes I need to be reminded of that.

So right now, I am endeavouring to practise this ancient discipline more often in my life. Each morning, I try to take time to quieten my mind and heart, identifying and putting gently aside those things that want to force their way into my mind or those thoughts that threaten to overwhelm me. In short, I collect—or allow God to collect—those parts of me that have been so scattered and focus on the simple truth that here I am, Jo-Anne, created and loved by God. That’s all that matters at this point. Consciously, I recognise God’s presence around me, watching over me and caring for me. And I sit for a while, allowing my spirit to cease its striving and to be at rest and at peace. Then, when I am still, my focus turns to God. And just as God declares in Psalm 46:10, I know it is time to praise him and lift him up.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Is it time for you to try some re-collecting in your life too?

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