Spiritual Amnesia

I have this weird thing where certain smells trigger memories for me – it brings them back as if they’re happening all over again. The air freshener in the men’s room at Blackberry’s did that yesterday.

Yeah, that’s right. I said it.

Just from that smell I remembered my first week at Parkview – starting a new ministry, bracing for the cold, living with the nuns in Lemont (long story), and getting to know a new church.

In January 2009, Jason Anhalt and I went to eat at Parkview East (Blackberry’s is a popular staff haunt, what can I say) during that first week and I remember the smell of the heater running and the fruity air freshener as I thought :

What am I doing here?

What’s going to happen next?

What about the people I left behind?

What could God possibly want with me in this place?

James Wilhoit, a great Christian scholar, says that one of the greatest fears the Jewish people had was to forget. Reading the Old Testament you’ll see the word “remember” and “celebrate” and “festival” repeated over and over again.

The reason? God likes to tell people what to do. Right?

No, the reason is that every time they remembered, celebrated, or held a festival someone would ask: “Why are we doing this?” and someone would explain, “When we were slaves in Israel, God came and rescued us…” Remembering and celebrating meant that there would always be a reason to tell the incredible story of how God had rescued them and why that made a difference in the lives of people.

God knew people needed that because we have a very short spiritual memory. Sometimes I think I have spiritual amnesia.

Lessons in faith and trust where God came through like gangbusters are easily forgotten.

Times of forgiveness and teaching over failures are put aside.

And in their place are worry, doubt, fear, anger, frustration, etc.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have those very human emotions, I’m just saying 9 times out of 10 it isn’t new. We’ve felt that way before and God has dismantled it and given us hope.

Even if we forgot that He did.

The most spiritually healthy thing we can do sometimes is to remember – to think about where we’ve come from, to stave off spiritual amnesia, to recall that God has never abandoned us but instead has allowed us to learn firsthand lessons that give us the prep we need for life going forward.

Here’s a little exercise. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is this the first time I’ve dealt with a situation like this one? If not, what happened last time?
  2. What did God do and how did I respond? (here’s where having a journal would be helpful)
  3. What does that experience teach me about the present one?

Celebrate what God has done in your past sometime this week. Throw a party. Invite some people. Haul out the good wine. Don’t forget, don’t ever forget.