“Remember me, Lord…” Psalm 106:4
I have been feeling forgetful lately. I put it that way because whether or not I actually have forgotten something is irrelevant. It is this persistent feeling: I cant remember what I am supposed to be remembering. As soon as I wake up, it takes my brain a few seconds to load the latest list. While it metamorphically downloads, I rub my eyes and sigh. I gear up to dodge the deadlines, to manage our lives that feel like that arcade game where you are on racetrack with a steering wheel that doesn’t work, escaping a crash every curve by the skin of your teeth.
I’m not so sure this is a problem that is specific to people with young children. Honestly, from what I gather from friends in all stages of life, many of us are struggling with these feelings of being over-scheduled, overwhelmed, under-rested. Our smart phones, watches, and tablets are supposed to make life easier. Yet lately I’m finding the constant buzzing, the “time-to-leave” notifications, the ceaseless flow of texts and emails that require response—I feel like I never stop working. And it is my memory that is holding the whole thing afloat.
How many of you are the designated Keeper of Information? You know what I mean—the one who knows how much milk is in the fridge, who knows what’s for dinner, when the dry cleaning is ready. (In my husband’s defense, he’s keeps a lot too—like the condition of our roof, which plants need to be watered when, which bills need to be paid and lots of other things— I am so grateful that we share these duties.) But for whoever keeps the information, it is stressful to know that with a single memory misstep we could find ourselves with no clean clothes, no food for dinner, and no one to be home to let the repair person in or move the car for street cleaning. While it is truly a “first world problem” to have so many wonderful blessings to keep track of, I’m not so sure this is how being blessed is supposed to feel.
In an effort to grab hold of all that is in my brain, to hang on to each thread of our exciting and hectic life, I recently started a new practice of writing everything down, taking notes throughout my day like a doctor would for a patient’s chart. Every meeting I have with a student, every phone call with a friend, every to-do item that pops up (long term, short term, big or small)— I take it down. Besides the fact that I’m filling up notebooks rather quickly, I am enjoying this practice.
It actually feels artistic to empty my mind, leaving it there on paper. With all the newly available mental space, I am finding myself more creative and available for that gentle tug of inspiration and motivation. Even still, writing it all down doesn’t take away the constant need to remember—now I just have to remember to read the notebook!
At some point in this new practice, I found myself writing to God, praying in to-do list form. Between my notes about the meeting at school and a list of books and podcasts my friend recommended, I had written: “Lord, give me peace.” Sometimes these little lines to God are all my busy mind can manage in regards to prayer. When I read them back days later, I realize how often I forget to remember God. It made me wonder if God ever forgets me.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are repeated examples of that specific anthropomorphism (human attribute given to God) where God remembers. When people seem to have lost all hope or are devastated beyond repair, it says God remembers them. God remembers Noah and the flood recedes and God remembers Rachel and she conceives. I must be honest and say that when I first read it I thought: “See, this is proof that God can forget.” And who could blame God? I can barely remember to buy diapers and I am just the Keeper of Estevez Information not the Keeper of the Universe.
But as I dug a little deeper, I discovered each instance of God remembering is immediately followed by the description of what God did to help. When it says God remembers, these words are synomous with God acting on behalf of the remembered. Instead of reading it like God was a fallible human who could forget, I am reading it like the writers of these scriptures were saying: “In case you think God had forgotten, here is proof God didn’t: God acted.”
I also learned that our word “remember” is connected to the word religion, from the Latin “religio,” meaning “to put back together or connect.” (Think about the word “ligament.”) When we say God remembers us, it is God putting us back together again. God doesn’t just keep all the information like my (often futile) note taking practice: God is present and active in our healing, in the righting of the world. We can trust God is holding it all together because God remembers.
As I finish another week of life in this role as Keeper of Estevez Information, I am deciding to lay down my notebook for a second and offer a prayer of thanks in non to-do list form. Today I am choosing to see my failing human memory not as a source of anger and stress, but as a reminder of God’s power and omnipotence, sovereignty and grace.
We can rest in the knowledge that we are not forgotten, no matter how often we forget.