I am becoming increasingly forgetful. I am only 43. This does not bode well for the future. Granted, I have a pretty good short-term memory. I can memorize a great deal of information quickly; however, not so when it comes to reminders and appointments. If I don’t write it down there is a good chance that I will not remember it. I like to say it is my compartmentalization. I forgot it because it was tucked away in some mental drawer somewhere. So begins the rationalization.
It is interesting that we view forgetfulness as always a negative thing. No one wants to be labeled as forgetful. It is viewed as the beginning of the end. So, we try desperately to never forget. There are clever mnemonics that help you string together facts. We engage in visualization that might help for a while. To do lists and sticky notes are also a good way to keep on top of mental notes. In fact, it is possible to take dietary pills that are intended to help you remember things (not sure if they work). All in all no one wants to be classified as forgetful. It is never a good thing.
As Lent begins this week, I have been reminded about God’s forgiveness. Yet, recently God’s forgiveness has taken on a more potent quality to it. It is not simply a pardon; it is an act of wiping the record clean. Hebrews 8:12 has come to mind, “For I will forgive their wickedness, and will remember their sins no more.” Let me paraphrase this for us. If we confess our sins to God, He will forgive our sins and forget them. “Remember their sins no more” right! Wow! God will no longer remember our lies, lusts, anger, bitterness, or any other sin in our life. To be honest, I don’t have a clue as to how God accomplishes this. I have been burned by sin many times over the years. I most certainly can forgive that person’s offense. But forget the act, absolutely not. It stays there in my mind – a scar from some verbal insult which occasionally pops up when I think about the person or encounter a similar situation. I am not alone. I have counseled many people who have echoed this sentiment. “I can forgive but I cannot forget.” It would be wonderful to be able to do so but it is humanly impossible.
Yet, God is not human. He is divine. He has the capacity to do things that we are unable to do. Obviously, He knows all things about us even the secret thoughts (this is a bit scary). He knows our future (oh it would be nice to get a glimpse into this). He is sovereign over everything (when I think of the Middle East I thank God that we worship a sovereign being). These are all wonderful things that prompt me to worship Him. I worship Him because He has qualities that are unique from me, greater than me, mysterious to me. One of these qualities is the capacity to forget sin. Oh, what joy to know that God wipes my sin from his mind and remembers them no more. There is no lasting remnant of offense towards Him. It is gone. The Psalmist states he separates our sin as far as the east is from the west (in other word permanently).
I am truly humbled by this truth. I look at the past. I think of my own sinful acts. I remember them. In many ways, I am still ashamed by them. I have received forgiveness for them; however, the act itself serves as a form of torture knowing that I failed. Yet, God not only forgives me, He forgets my sin. As I think about the uniquely beautiful qualities of God, this rises to the top. Oh, the joy of such grace. In fact, it prompts me to bring my sins to God because He can do something that is impossible for me – truly clean the slate. As I start to celebrate Lent, I stand humbled by the profoundness of His grace, not simply forgiveness but forgiveness with forgetfulness. Oh, so undeserving am I!