Monday, February 22, 2010

When it's good to forget

"Humanly we can choose to forgive, but it is outside our capability as humans to choose to forget."

I heard this quote once upon a time somewhere that I can no longer remember, but obviously it has remained with me. I was thinking about that quote a lot this weekend. And I was imagining. I was imagining what it would be like if we could choose to forget. What if it were up to me; if it were my choice to forget all the bad and remember only the good? What would the consequences of such a choice be?

We do it naturally at funerals. Have you noticed that? When someone dies we gather to remember them and we collectively choose to remember only the good. Rarely at a funeral have I heard someone recall a story that brought up past hurts or disappointments. And, it's not just that we're choosing to focus on the good at a funeral. It's like somehow, when we face death, it is possible to actually forget all the wrongs.

Yet, for the living we find it so hard to do that.


I wonder if it all boils down to self preservation. If it's all about protecting ourselves from hurt. When someone dies they are no longer a threat to us. Whatever it is that they've done to wrong us in the past no longer holds any power of repeat. They're not going to be able to hurt us again the same way so letting go of those transgressions doesn't carry with it the same vulnerability as it does for someone who's still living. Choosing, if we could, to forget the way we've been hurt means leaving ourselves open for future hurt. Or at least, that's what it feels like. If I forget how she manipulates the things I say I might not be as guarded around her next time. If I forget how he loses his temper when he doesn't agree with my opinion I might speak too freely. If I forget how much it hurt to lose that friendship I might walk right back into it again and risk hurting all over again.

It's easier to remember because we think the remembering will protect us from pain.

But what would the upside be to choosing only to store up the good stuff about someone? What if nothing terrible were recorded in our memory banks? What if with every new encounter the slate were wiped clean and everyone were given the benefit of the doubt? I can only imagine that kind of power that would be released in that!

God chooses to see me that way everyday. He's been hurt by me a million times, but He literally chooses to simply not remember it. Each night as I sleep and in the morning when I wake to start a new day He greets me with what my friend Patty calls a "Holy Amnesia". He doesn't hold back. He doesn't self preserve or protect. He's all out risk. He has everything to lose when he loves me like that. I'm destined to repeat my sins. I'm fated to break His heart again. But each time He chooses to forgive... and to forget.

"As far as the east is from the west. So far has He removed our transgressions from us."

Only He would so lovingly choose infinity to describe just how forgetful He is!

Why does God do that? Wouldn't hanging on to my offenses be easier? Or at least less painful?

Choosing to forget does seem impossible. But with time and lots of prayers for holy amnesia I think it is possible. And as for that guarded heart, I have found in those instances when I've found success in the forgetting that God has done all the guarding. And He's done a better job of it than I ever could. Laying my heart out,open and vulnerable has in those times has proven to be the most rewarding moments of my life! Relationships that seemed doomed have been not just brought back to life but have filled my life with blessings immeasurable. And not having to carry around all the baggage all the time? Wow! What a relief!

I've said and done some pretty thoughtless things in my lifetime. I can't imagine how freeing it would be if it were all forgotten. And, I know... some people are harder to forgive than others. I know that some hurts are much harder to forget. But I want to work toward that. I want to be able to offer it in every instance because if the goal is to look as much like Jesus as I can... then the forgetting must play a pretty big role. And because I know how much it would mean to me if those I've offended were able to offer even more than forgiveness but forgetfulness as well.

Is it humanly possible all the time? I don't know. But I do want to die trying!