The Dangers of Selective Memory

9:08 AMHeather

If it weren't so frustrating to hear, I might just laugh when my kids tell me things like, "You NEVER let me do anything!"  Or, "This is the worst day EVER."  And, yes, I have even heard the dreaded, "I hate you," and "I am SO mad at you."  It cuts to my very heart--but yet at the same time, I feel the urge to laugh because it is so ridiculous.  Yes, I'm afraid my children are cursed with that darn human tendency for selective memory.  They conveniently forget all the privileges, favors, and blessings they've enjoyed.  And, yes, I have turned into THAT mom, spouting off such wisdom as, "well, there are starving children in Africa and kids who wish they have more than the clothes on their back! Or even parents, for that matter!" 

Discontent.  Billions of dollars are spent in advertising designed to create discontent in the heart of all consumers.  We live in a culture where we are constantly inundated with the message that our laundry detergent doesn't clean well enough, our home isn't big enough, and our clothes aren't flattering enough.  I believe discontent is born from selective memory.  Can we not all wind ourselves into a tizzy about how unfair and unhappy and unsatisfying both things and people are in our lives?

I would venture to say that most of the time, our sense of discontent is quite unrealistic.  But, I know that there are times in life when the weight of the circumstances truly leave a person leveled.  For instance, this week was the one year anniversary of the Joplin tornadoes.  A community facing great loss--both of lives and property.  A community with every reason in the world to feel discontent, unhappy, lacking all hope.  A community who may well have written these very words:

Will the Lord reject forever?  Will he never
show his favor again?  Has his unfailing love
vanished forever?  Has his promise failed for all
time? Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?
Psalm 77:7-9

Have you ever felt this way?  Has there every been a time in your life when you can imagine penning those words?  Have you lost a spouse, suddenly facing life all alone?  Have you had to bury a child?  Do you walk the valley of infertility, month after month seeing hope dash as your dreams of parenthood remain unfulfilled?   Let me assure you--you are in good company.  David the shepherd king himself--that slayer of the giant Goliath--obviously shared in bearing the pain and heartache that you might feel, as he wrote this Psalm so many years ago.

Glimpse of grace:  Whether you are facing the discontent of the life of a young mom, bogged down in the tedious and repetitious and thankless job of mothering little ones.  Or, laid out flat on your back from the weight of the unbearable that has become your day to day.  David, our Psalm writer, offers his insight on how to find the hope to take the next step--to just walk through one more day.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles
of long ago.  I will meditate on your
works and consider all your mighty deeds.
Psalm 77:11-12

Selective memory can be a dangerous thing indeed.  We all have the tendency to wallow in our pain and suffering, thinking of the horrible and awful circumstances we are enduring.  We compare ourselves to those around us and are jealous for their ease and comfort and bounty in life.  Our selective memory binds us to that feeling of discontent, thinking only of what we don't have that we deserve.

But, what if we turn that selective memory in our favor?  What if we take the challenge of David--who himself wondered if God's unfailing love had finally failed?  Yet David found hope because he challenged himself to select the memories of God's faithfulness.  Yes, he turned selective memory on its ear with this prescription.  He chose to force his mind to dwell on the miracles, deeds, and works of God that point to God's nature to be FOR us.   Instead of looking at his circumstances or his lack of...he was intentional to set his mind on those very times in his life and the lives of those around him when God showed up.  He decided to leave the pity party and have a remembrance party instead.  The selective memory that had pressed him down became his greatest secret to pulling himself up.  

May we do the same.  May we pull out a journal or blank piece of paper and selectively choose to remember and write out all the times God blessed us, pulled through for us, showed his favor on us.  And, while we're at it, may we prayerfully pull out our Bibles and make note of how God parted the Red Sea, provided the manna, closed the lion's mouths, pulled men from fiery furnaces, rescued David from his enemies, and caused the walls to tumble simply from a long march around the city.  That is who God was.  And, lest we forget--that is who God still IS.  He will slay your giants, make a way where none seems to be, bring you through the deserts and fire, and save you from destruction.  He will be faithful to carry you through the long days of mothering, the pain of infertility, the overwhelming journey of grieve.  He will provide what you need when you need it.  

And, an amazing thing happens when we choose to master our selective memories.  Hope begins to spring.  Perhaps just a little at first.  But, the more we REMEMBER who He is and whose we are, the more hope invades our darkness.  Hope.  That lifeline that carries us through the floods of despair.  The glimpse of the mountains on the other side of our valley.  Yes, indeed.  Watch out, discontent!  Because selective memory will be your greatest threat.  It is dangerous, without a doubt.

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