Forgetting to Remember


I was in the house of a friend once looking over his bookshelf and noticed a hardback volume of an old favorite of mine, one I’d rarely seen in book stores much less a nice hardbound copy like this one. When I remarked to my friend what a treasure he had, he smirked, then chuckled, and informed me that I had given him that volume. Sure enough, my scrawling note to Joe was inside the front cover.   (This happened many years ago before age could be used as an explanation for my forgetfulness.)


I did a teaching recently on work and leisure, futility and joy and had numerous comments on how helpful the message was. But this morning as I read an old friend’s blog (an old friend who also happens to be my son-in-law), I realized how notably I’d failed to remember really profound elements tied to the notion of rest and leisure. Steve’s blog was on the book, Leisure, the Basis of Culture, by Josef Pieper. This is not only one of my favorite reads, but one I introduced to Steve when we did a book club some years back. I was a bit embarrassed reading his blog and remembering all the insights I forgot to include in my teaching.

The topic of that book, leisure, points to the reason I forget to remember so many things that might prove helpful in my discussions, teaching, blogs, etc. Like the philosophy of life Pieper skewers in his book, I tend to run downhill madly, leaving inadequate time to reflect and, in reflecting, remember.

This is all the more convicting because I do have times when reflection leads to remembering, and those are usually times of prayer. I’ve learned to keep pen and paper with my Bible because so often it’s when musing on a text of Scripture, or when in quiet prayer, that helpful and insightful remembering occurs. If I don’t stop and write that thing down it’s usually lost, like leaves slipping down a stream, thought leading to fluid thought, here but a moment and then gone. I’m often amazed at how many ideas, thoughts, and memories flood my mind when I’m in those moments of leisure and remembering becomes possible again.

Daffodils in Cornwall, England

Wordsworth’s “daffodils” lodged early in my memory and painted vivid pictures in my youthful imagination with his floating clouds and sparkling waves. The description of his vacant and pensive mood providing the means for those daffodils to dance again in memory enchanted me in youth, but somehow I’ve tended to forsake that invitation to be pensive in much of my working life­– and what a shame.

I believe in hard work, and lots of it, as the means God uses more often than not to accomplish His work in my life and the lives of others. And yet those labors can easily betray, leading to a pace of life that’s devoid of the timely memories and the pensive moments that both inform and guide those helpful labors.

Musing leisurely this morning as gold-green sunlight streams through trees, I am awakened again to the knowledge that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  I’m so glad I can remember to forget the labors that await me (at least for the moment) so I won’t forget to remember the goodness of God, the lessons He’s taught, and the riches He’s placed in my life through these years.


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