Confessions of a forgetful heart
Forgetfulness is normal, but it can impact our fruitfulness as believers and our witness to the world. How do we make sure we are remembering God in a world of distractions? By Lucy Mills
It was a journey, not just an idea.
The strands that came together to form my new book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world
, did so over time. What they birthed was a book that was in essence personal – coming out of a recognition of my own weakness.
I am chronically forgetful. Ask me what I did last week, or even yesterday, and I’ll look like I’m trying to calculate a difficult sum. But I have realised that my forgetfulness goes far deeper than the events of my life and why I walked into the room. (Wait. Why am I here?)
My forgetfulness eats into my identity. I forget who I am. I forget who I am because I forget who God is and forget who God called me to be. Life may hurtle or drag by – but whatever the speed of it, I still forget.
An early believer, I had been a passionate Christian growing up. (I was very sincere. The dog, cat and a succession of hamsters all got read bible stories so they knew what it was about.) A hunger to dig deeper and develop my understanding led me to study at theological college. I loved it.
But a few years after I’d left, it was slipping away. I struggled to see God’s moving in my life. I resented lack of time and energy and couldn’t work out my role in life. After a while, I no longer felt the urge to learn. I’d assumed things would always stay with me. I had fallen into the trap of ‘waiting for the perfect moment’ and wasted the moments I already had. I overestimated my ability to retain knowledge, wisdom, even experience.
I look back at some profound moment and – there’s that furrowed, confused expression again – it’s too hazy. I can no longer make out the definition, the lines. My mind and heart are short sighted, and I didn’t fully realise this until so much had already been lost. Buried under other priorities. Elbowed out by busyness, worry and stress. Dominated by fear. I allowed other circumstances to hijack my mind just when I needed to focus the most.
I realised – my memory doesn’t work well on autopilot. I need to keep steering, to keep my eyes open. Otherwise I don’t understand how I got here. And God – the one I claim to follow – slips out of my sight. I know this. Yet I continue clogging up my life with other, unimportant stuff. Distraction has become my default mode: I struggle to break free of it.
It’s not just me. It’s a problem for many. Our world is chock-full of distraction. When I’ve talked to others about this, often I’ve seen relief in their eyes: I’m not the only one. I’d like this book to reassure people. They are not alone.
Forgetful Heart explores the nature of our memories and why we forget. Forgetfulness is normal. In acknowledging this, I ask: What are the things we want to remember? What are we choosing to lose, instead of keep? How can we de-clutter our minds to give space to the important things – and people – in our lives?
I’d like the book to challenge people, by explaining why it’s so important to remember God and reflect on what it means to live in a state of active recall. This is not a challenge given by someone who is an expert in remembering. The opposite is true! In writing the book, I have challenged myself and hope that others might benefit from my journey.
Forgetful Heart reflects on the biblical story and its meaning for us. It asks questions about identity and what it means to follow Christ. Biblically, to remember God is deeper than just ‘knowing things’ but is supposed to inform how we live. So how does forgetfulness impact our fruitfulness as believers and our witness to the world?
Through prayers and points for reflection, Forgetful Heart invites the reader to journey toward a deeper kind of remembering. We all learn and remember differently, and we will not all find the same things helpful in this journey to nurture an awareness of God in our lives. The book recognises this and, through inviting a deeper understanding of ourselves and how we ‘work’, suggests ways we might harness this knowledge in our pursuit of God.
Writing the book hasn’t cured me, although it has been part of my own quest to remember. Distraction still blinds me; it’s an effort having to look through it all, to seek something deeper. But I know I can never be satisfied with living in the shallows.
I’m grateful that God’s memory never slips. I’m relieved that, in spite of my chronic forgetfulness, God always remembers and is ready to help me get back to him.
God, in his mercy, does not forget us.
Lucy Mills is a writer and editor living in Somerset with husband Andy, a Baptist minister. She blogs at www.lucy-mills.com and tweets as @lucymills. Her book, Forgetful Heart: Remembering God in a Distracted World, is published by Darton, Longman and Todd.