“Better than a good memory.”
When I was 20, I was blessed to live and work in the city of Palmerston North for 8 months. I arrived as the winter of 1981 was beginning and quickly learned that the winds that whip across the Manawatu Plains can carry a bite that goes deep. But the spring was worth waiting for. Even my youthful eyes, which had no interest in suburban beautification, couldn’t miss the prettiness of it all. It was on one of those spring days that I found myself walking on one of those beautiful streets. There, added to the sunshine, the array of colours and the white picket fences, was the sound of the voices of Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton singing, “Islands in the stream, that is what we are…” Someone had turned the music up. To this very day, the sights and sounds of that day are etched into my ‘pleasant memories’ file. My last days in Palmerston North were better for hearing that song. So I thought! Years later, I was on the internet, and there before me was a piece of trivia that has forever made me admit that my memory was never as good as I thought it was. The problem with my story was, of course, the date of the song. It was not released until 1983. I guess I must have slipped in a nice song for a nice day. They say that memory is not like pictures filed away in our mind to be retrieved full and intact but is instead like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that we piece back together every time we call something to mind. The pieces of one picture can easily be lost or somehow added to others.
One day Gordon Scott finished off one of his great stories with, “The man said, “It pays to develop a good memory so you can remember what people say about you.”” Gordon smiled, and always one to end with a lesson said, “I suppose that since he was a Christian, it might have been better if he developed ‘a good forgetter.’” I forgot the story, but I got the lesson. It helps no one when we keep a list of past offenses. It doesn’t take long before they destroy any hope of being a useful tool for God to use for peace and reconciliation. Peace and reconciliation are what Jesus achieved on the cross. If Jesus brought us back into God’s presence by forgetting all our past sins, then it only makes sense for us to go and do likewise. Or as Paul put it in Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” There is more good news: “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14).
However, if you feel it prudent to store up some of those sins done against you for a rainy day…?—A word to the wise: “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:15). What’s better than a good memory? You probably beat me to the draw—yes, “A good forgetter!”