Living Less Like an Elephant

Isaiah 65:17

"See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind."

Isaiah 43:18-19

“Remember not the former things,
   nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
   now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
   and rivers in the desert."

My husband often marvels and laments my memory.  I have the ability to remember every single conversation complete with inflection in his voice from the time we met.  I remember the foods we ate, the clothes we wore, and how he smelled that day.  Sometimes my memory serves me well, especially in an argument (ha!) but more often than not, my memory is my greatest foe.

Isn’t it interesting that our omniscient, omnipotent God would tell us so many times in the Bible to “remember not”?  That even He, Himself, will not remember things but will choose to look at the newly created Earth and Heavens and for us to focus on the new things He’s doing in our wilderness?  God even tells believers that He will not remember our sins. He will cast our sins into the sea and remember them no more.  Some people even refer to the sea where our sins sink deep as the Sea of Forgetfulness.  Forgetfulness in this case is a blessing, not a curse!

If God chooses to forget, shouldn’t we?  Wouldn’t it be in our best interest to forget more and remember less?  My recent struggles with depression and anxiety have taught me a very valuable lesson:  Depression is focusing too much on the past and anxiety is focusing too far into the future.  No amount of remembering can undo what has been done and no amount of overthinking possible outcomes will change what God wills or allows.  If I truly trust in the Lord with all my heart, mind and strength then I will trust that He will bind up and heal my wounds and that His plans for me are good even when I know trials will come.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  God’s Word is meant to illuminate that which is set directly before us.  The psalm does not say, “Your word is a flood light illuminating the past 10 years or the next six months.”  We are to focus on the present.  Only God can exist throughout all of eternity, when we try to live in the past, present and future we exhaust ourselves and I daresay everyone around us.  With God’s word lighting just enough steps before us we are only responsible to do the next right thing with His help.  Yes, we bring with us wisdom and knowledge from the past but we are not shoulder the memories that weigh us down.

God told Abraham to leave his home and go to a place He would show him. He didn’t map it all out for Abraham.  Abraham chose to let go of a familiar homeland and memories and trust God with his future.  If I’m honest, I have a hard time letting go of the familiar and I would definitely say no to a lot of things if God showed me all the details of the future.  Depression and anxiety can keep us from God’s promises.

Elephants are known for their amazing memories.  Elephants can remember food sources after having traveled far away from that source for many years.  They are also able to remember and recognize other elephants they only “met” or encountered once.  This incredible ability is what keeps them safe from other threatening herds, helps them to find food and water when it is scarce and keeps their future generations intact.  One reason scientists believe elephants’ memories are so good is because they do not have reliable eyesight.  While elephants are known for a mind like a steel trap, they are also known for terrible vision.

Instead of relying on our own elephant-like memories and our own poor vision, we have the benefit of relying on God’s word.  On of my favorite hymns is “Be Thou My Vision”.  I have often found this hymn comforting and consoling during times of depression and anxiety.  The first verse says:
Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night;
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Walking with the Lord is so much simpler than we make it.  And to think...He gives us permission - even commands us to be a little forgetful in order to find freedom!