How is your memory?
I thought so. For most of us, either it is not as good as it once was, or it’s not as good as we wish.
I have been thinking a lot about memory because I forgot two significant things recently. First, I forgot to go to a dinner — for which I already had paid and I forgot to attend a business-related teleconference that had been set up a week in advance.
Two events. One business; one pleasure. Both forgotten. Something is wrong.
Experts tell us our memory is affected by a number of things:
ŸAging (I have heard this is the case);
ŸStress (when we are under stress we don’t remember well);
ŸA focus on something more important (when something critically important is happening, our memory goes away);
ŸSelf-fulfilling prophecy (we believe that we can’t remember);
ŸCranial editing (we decide something isn’t worth remembering)
ŸInterference (the new crowds out the old — or vice versa);
ŸAnd lack of care or attention (we simply don’t think something is important enough to commit to memory).
Some forgetting is intentional — terrifying events or trivial things — but mostly we want to remember better. To do it, we have tricks we use to try to help with our memory.
We turn to mnemonics, shorthand substitutes such as LASER (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation) and SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) and HOMES for the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior), or catch phrases such as for the number of days in a month.
We use acrostics, where we create an easy-to-remember phrase out of the first letters of the words we want to remember. For the nine planets, in order out from the Sun, we use “My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” for Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. (A new acrostic has been created by those who opposed the change of Pluto’s official status to minor planet — Many Very Evil Men Just Screwed Up Nature.)
There are other tricks that we use: We tie strings to our fingers; we repeat something like a name again and again until it becomes locked in our brains; we write it down; or we build a habit (we do things the same way every time — the keys on the top left of the dresser). Each of these can help us to remember important things in our lives.
Fortunately, God doesn’t have a memory problem. God has promised to never forget us, and He has given us a number of ways to try to remember that fact. God has told us a number of times in scripture.
In Isaiah 49:15 God tells us, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”
In Romans 8:38-39, God reminds us we will not be forgotten and that nothing can separate us from Him. God even promises to remember us in the future.
In Jeremiah 29:11, He says, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
And God has given us songs like “How Firm a Foundation” where the last verse ends:
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake / I'll never, no never, no never, forsake!
For whatever crazy reason, God has promised to remember and love us to the end — and beyond. So, don’t forget, you are loved.
Benjamin G. Davis was executive director of the Religious Coalition for Emergency Human Needs in Frederick from 1996-99, teaches theology at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and is president of the University of North America. If you would like to respond to his column, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.