Misremembering

Misremembering sounds like one of those words invented by the kids in the comic strip “Family Circus”.  I don’t know if it is a real word, but my spellcheck does not recognize it.  However, it accurately describes something all of us have experienced.

Here in Alabama the big news of the week is the legalizing of same-sex marriages.  But in the rest of the country, the big news is the suspension of Brian Williams of NBC’s Evening News for “misremembering” his part in previous news events.  Although the credibility of those who report the news is important, to me, it does not seem such an egregious fault.

Our memories play tricks on us all the time.  Mine is good a forgetting things.  But at other times, it tells me something is so, even though it is not.  My last tasks before heading to bed each night include preparing the coffee and setting the alarm.  On occasion, Deborah will ask me, “Did you do it?”  And I will have a vivid recollection of turning on the alarm or putting the water and coffee in the coffee maker, yet when I check, the alarm is not set or the coffee pot is empty.  I would have sworn I did it, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

We may feel like President Ronald Reagan in the Iran-Contra hearings.  He went on television to apologize for misrepresenting events.  I do not recall the exact words he used, but it was something like, “When confronted with the proof, I have to accept that I did what was alleged.  But in my heart, I still can’t believe I did this.” (And I do not think this was an early indicator of his later Alzheimer’s disease.)

Our perspective on events also may vary from others who were also part of the same event.  A year ago, I was writing a souletosoul blog which included an event shared by my brother, Don, and me.  At the time, Don was visiting us.  As we talked about the event that had happened over 50 years before, he remembered some of the basic facts as I did, but some of the details he remembered, I did not, and vice versa.  What we remembered of the shared event had a lot to do with the parts we played in the event.  We were there at the same time and place, but what made more of an impression on each of us varied with our perspective.  Neither was mistaken or misleading, just different.

So our minds play tricks on us.  Our memories fade.  Our remembrance becomes distorted.  Even those who seem to have photographic memories can sometimes be surprised to find that photographs can be altered.  That is part of being human.

Yet God never forgets.  No matter how forgotten we may feel, God remembers us.  In Isaiah 49:15-16, God speaks to us and says, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!  See, I have engraved (tattooed) you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

Still, this all-knowing, all-remembering God can forgive and voluntarily remove from memory those things we seek forgiveness for.  It is a sort of ironic, but the God of all history can erase parts of our history.  But that is the promise we receive.  In Jeremiah 31:34, God tells us, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  And the prophet Micah states, “You will have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” (7:19)

And that is good to know.

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About edwardsoule

The Rev. Dr. Edward A. Soule is now a retired United Methodist pastor who served 28 years as a minister in churches around the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church. Before that, he was in Christian radio for 10 years and was a Baptist minister for two years. Over the years, Ed has also been a teacher in public schools, a private school principal, and taught at a Bible college. He has a B.A. from Bethel University, St. Paul, MN; a M. Div. from Bethel Theological Seminary; and a D. Min. from United Theological Seminary, Dayton, OH. Ed has been married to Deborah (Mendelson) for 32 years. She is the executive director of Partnership for a Drug Free Community. They currently reside in the Hampton Cove community of Huntsville, AL, where Ed enjoys walking with their dog, Churchill, daily and keeping up the landscaping. "Dr. Edward" is available to speak to churches and other groups, pulpit supply, and interim work in the north Alabama/southern Tennessee area. Contact through this blog or directly at edsoule@comcast.net.
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