Marketers excel at phrasing difficult topics in a way that doesn’t ruffle feathers or raise prickly hackles of discomfort. Almost daily I see a television commercial advertising a drug for memory improvement and the ad refers to memory loss as “troubled recall” instead of naming it forgetfulness that might imply you are getting old. The visual image in the ad is a jellyfish that is supposed to represent my changing, decaying brain.
I have troubled recall but it is not the forgetfulness. We have just begun the season of Lent where we walk an increasingly dim spiritual path until we find ourselves in the total darkness of Good Friday afternoon. It is a journey of repentance. I must recall my sins and be troubled by them in order to fully appreciate the eternal love that shines its brightest when Easter morning dawns.
This year my reflection is troubled by long-ago sins. I find myself thinking about being mean to my sisters and being disrespectful to my parents and not taking responsibility for things that were truly my willful fault. I recall times when I cheated and lied. I think about excuses and rationalizations I used when I didn’t have the courage to just admit I was wrong. I remember sneaking into Mom’s dresser drawer to steal a nickel to buy a candy bar and remaining silent when she didn’t understand why her little stash of change was shrinking. And that is just one example among many.
I am troubled by cowardly choices made in various situations in various jobs where I went along to get along instead of standing up for someone or something that needed support. I recall times when I did stand up for something or someone and it was the wrong thing to do because I was driven by self-centered interests.
Yes, my memory is quite clear on these old matters. Even though I repented of these sins at the time, the consequences shaped my character and, hopefully, changed me for the better. The fact that I still remember the more painful and humiliating incidences after all these years tells me how important it is to deal with my human failings and imperfections every single day of my life on earth. They pile up fast.
I heard in the Ash Wednesday sermon last night that Godly sorrow is a companionship of repentance and faith. I firmly believe my sins were – and are – completely and totally forgiven. When I am troubled by sins old or new, I recall some of the most comforting words in the Bible, the words from Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”
My troubled recall does not end with the sins I have committed. Sometimes my mind is bothered by thoughts of those who have sinned against me. The Bible is clear on that matter, too: we are directed to forgive one another. Easier said than done. It helps me then to really ponder what happened on Good Friday. When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) he was letting go of the situation and trusting that his Father would do the right and just thing. For me to forgive someone, I must let go of the hurt and pain mentally and emotionally and let God deal with the matter in his own way. Truly letting go, without needing to know how God handled it, brings peace to my heart.
My earthly brain will remain riddled with imperfections until the day I exchange it for a glorified one in Heaven. That brain will be housed in a head wearing a crown of glory won for me by Jesus Christ. That brain will have no use for troubled recall. I rejoice that Jesus was able to make this promise a reality by doing all that was necessary to right the wrongs I have done in his Father’s sight and that I, too, was included in his prayer, “Father forgive them…”