Summary: We use selective memory either to remember only pleasant things (denial) or only negative things (pessimism). God’s memory is an occasion of grace, for which we can be grateful.

The longer we live, the more there is to remember. And yet the more we remember, the more we forget as well. Isn’t that ironic? The longer we live, the more there is to remember. And yet the more we remember, the more we forget as well. That could be due to several things. That could be memory loss. Or it could be selective memory. Or it could be an occasion of grace. An occasion of grace.

Remember! Do you remember? There used to be a fun song called, “Do you remember?” Something like, Do you remember rumble seats and running boards? Do you remember four-party lines and number please? The punch line of the song was that if you do remember, dearie, then you’re much older than I.

And if you remember that song, which I do not, you’re much older than I! I think it came out in the gay nineties ...the other gay nineties, before Ellen. Dearie, do you remember?

How much do you remember? Do you remember with crystal clarity everything that has happened to you? Or are you having a little trouble with some things? They say that as we grow older, our long-term memory may stay in place, but our short-term memory has problems. I know that I can remember lots of things from way back. I can remember my first grade teacher; you realize, don’t you, that I walked barefoot to school every morning with my fellow Kentuckian, Abraham Lincoln! That was a long way back! I can remember my early Sunday School experience; I can recall, when I was four years old, how my pastor came into our Sunday School room and let us all feel his bald, shiny head. Great Biblical truths taught that morning! I can remember lots of stuff from more than fifty years ago, but yesterday is hazy and this morning is impossible. What did I preach about two weeks ago? Uh, mm, by the way, what am I preaching about this morning? Do you remember?

How much do you remember? They say that it gets harder to remember people’s names. You run across someone you’ve known all your life, and, for the life of you, you cannot get that name out. Just this past week my wife and I were discussing nursing homes where we might move her mother. One particular home came up in conversation, and I said, “Oh, yes, I know that nursing home. That’s where I used to visit one of our members until her death, Mrs........Mrs.....” And do you think I could get that lady’s name out? I had visited her many times, I had preached at her funeral, I could tell you how to get to her son’s house, I could even tell you that she had a daughter who was a Catholic nun, but I absolutely could not reach back into my weary old memory and get that name out! And so I said to my wife, Mary, er Martha, er .......

The longer we live, the more there is to remember. And yet the more we remember, the more we forget as well. That could due to be several things. That could be simple memory loss, attributed to aging. But then it could also be selective memory. Or it could be an occasion of grace.

Selective memory. What do we mean by selective memory?

We mean that we remember certain things and forget other things, on the basis of our feelings. If it feels good, our selective memory remembers certain things and forgets others. Not consciously, maybe, but subconsciously. The point is that on the basis of how something feels to us, we may kick in our selective memory.

Now selective memory can work in two different directions, each of which gets into some spiritual issues. Let’s explore that.


On the one hand, you may find that your selective memory causes you to remember only good things and forget bad things. You may find that your selective memory blocks out all the negative stuff, and that some things too painful or too shameful to face are just taken away. You block them out. Several of you have told me that after you went to the hospital for some painful procedure, you couldn’t remember anything of it. You blocked it out. That’s selective memory.

But suppose that selective memory turns it back on the power of sin in our lives. Suppose that we just try to forget about that harsh reality called sin. I’ve seen it happen.

I have known people who would treat others in their families with complete disdain and disrespect; who would scream at and mangle the emotions of their children; who would betray their contempt for their spouses; but who would protest to the bitter end that they loved those families, they cared deeply for them, and nothing mattered more profoundly than these children who had just been slapped around. Selective memory can mean that we just turn a blind eye to our sin. It’s called denial. Denial.

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