How important is memory? Could you have an identity without it? Could you enjoy old relationships? Could you develop new ones? Without a memory, is it possible to cultivate such traits as trust or gratitude? No, no and no. You could live forever in the moment, but is that living?
Memory loss is nothing anyone in their right mind would choose. Alzheimer’s disease is a memory killer, profoundly tragic and painful for its victims and those who love them. First, it causes confusion, mood swings, irritability and even aggression. It hinders speech and victims may lose control of their bodily functions. The short-term memory goes first and long-term memory is not far behind. It destroys one’s ability to think. It is a slow death sentence. The average life expectancy upon diagnosis is seven years. The burden on care-givers over this time is great and it must be done largely on a one-way-street. Alzheimer’s is degenerative and there is no known cure.
Let’s take the next step. When a nation loses its memory, it also loses its identity and purpose as a people. It spirals into chaos, strife and ingratitude. Citizens live for no higher a cause than themselves or their group. Living for momentary satisfaction, we idolize leaders who tickle our ears with haphazard promises. Suffering from national Alzheimer’s, we lose touch with a candidate’s history. We support whoever makes us feel better. Forgetting the past, we re-elect leaders who run up debts beyond the reach of our children and grandchildren. Such nations face a slow death.
English author George Orwell (1903 –1950) once said, “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
The brave and outspoken Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008), wrote, “To destroy a people you must first sever their roots.”
What about Jesus’ church? Do we need a good memory? Should we strive to remember and understand our past? Or, should we just live in the moment?
These questions sound theoretical but they are huge. Every time the church takes the Lord’s Supper, we enrich our main memory. But it can’t stop there. Ignorance of church history (our story ) leaves Christians in a state of historical and spiritual “Alzheimer’s.” Lacking a good memory, we end up with a poor sense of God at work in the world over time. This diminishes our gratitude for our forebears. Far worse, it undermines our trust in God and cultivates a loss of meaning and purpose for our lives together and our role in the world.
Forgetful faith is oxymoronic and cannot stay strong for long. The worship of God in both testaments of the Bible is often described as a collective call to remember God’s marvelous deeds. Keeping our covenant with God involves the lifelong discipline of remembering His blessings and purposes. Can you articulate what they are?
Remembering is the root system for faith. Don’t let yours die.