As mom celebrated 90 years of life in January, it was time for the Kempf family to be grateful. It is a great milestone to have achieved. However, all her kids notice that some things in mom’s life are not like they used to be. She is slower in walking, yet still gets around, using one of those ‘walkers on wheels’. Her knees hurt. She doesn’t eat as much. But, perhaps most frustrating for her AND for us, is the loss of memory. The long term structures are still there –she recognizes her own kids and can tell stories from ‘back in the day.’ That is the good news. The not so good news is that her short term memory is declining. She’ll often stop, mid sentence and ask: “Now what was I going to say?” I usually reply: “I can’t help you with that one mom.” More recently, I tell her: “You were about to tell me that you were bequeathing me a million dollars.” Or “That I was always your favorite son.” Which usually makes her laugh, and we move on.
It is, for her and for us, her children, the worst part of aging.
In some ways, we take for granted the gift of memory. But here is why Alzheimer’s is such a scary disease. It robs you of your memory, and in so doing, robs you of the coherent story line of your life. When you can’t remember “who” you are and “whose” you are, the family you belong to, the people who have befriended you, those who have walked with you on the journey of life, it can be incredibly difficult. Without connection to the past, we literally have to ‘reconstruct ourselves anew EACH day and each moment. Who am I? What do I believe in? What do I value? Without memory, it is hard to know…
So isn’t it fascinating how God uses that most difficult part of the aging process as a way to covenant himself to us ever more. “For I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more…” I will remember their sins no more. Do you hear the opportunity in that? God, again and again, offers us the chance to “reconstruct ourselves anew.” By not remembering, by not HOLDING us accountable, by not pinning us down to a moment of failure or even a lifetime of failure, God sets up the situation whereby we might recreate ourselves anew EACH AND EVERY DAY. When I don’t have to relate to God as ‘the kid who had anger issues’ or the ‘one who was addicted to pornography’ or the ‘one who was unfaithful to their spouse – when GOD chooses not to remember me that way, then I can create myself anew each moment. And if God chooses to “Remember our sins no more” –than why do we spend so much time attached to them ourselves? God is not served by our holding ourselves bound when he has forgiven us. “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all things to myself,” he promises. And since he already has been lifted up, then why do we not let ourselves be drawn to his love.
I had a brief conversation with someone at fish fry. Trying to encourage them to return to the practice of the faith. Resistant. Wondered if they are one of those folks who are holding themselves bound by something in the past, because it is ‘easier’ to hang on to the attachment to sin than it is to recreate themselves anew in God’s love?
What a freedom that affords me with others as well. If they don’t have to grovel for forgiveness, if thy no longer have to try to eke out a pardon from our cold, cold hearts, then isn’t there the possibility of something amazing to emerge? Think of the freedom that we can give them. I do not hold you bound. I, like God, remember your sins no more.
So, the challenge is simple for us this week. What if we truly forgot one of these sins by which we hold others bound. What if God was inviting us to do what he did in that wonderful last line from Jeremiah – to remember the other’s sins no more. (And to remember our own sins no more as well – to not let our failures hold us bound.) To let those event and wound and hurts be like the grain of wheat that must fall to the ground and die – so that there can be an explosion of love and life and forgiveness in our world. What a gift that would be.
“For I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.”
Though it might be the hardest part of the aging process, I proclaim to you that it is the greatest attribute of God – his choice to forget our sins. For it means that we truly have the OPPORTUNITY to create ourselves anew each day…
This season, this day, seize that chance!