There is a lovely park within walking distance of our home. In the eighteen years we’ve lived in this neighborhood, I’ve spent many hours at this park walking its paths, playing with my grandchildren, thrilling at the occasional firework display, and enjoying the park’s quietude and simple beauty. Today, I stumbled upon something beautiful along one of its meandering pathways. It’s a wild rose, a beauty hidden from the view of the casual observer as it scrambles up the trunk of a somewhat scraggly pine tree. I “discover” it there every year without fail, yet it always seems to momentarily surprise me when I spy it for the first time each summer.
I re-introduced my mother to this special park last week. She didn’t want to go at first, but was soon enjoying our little stroll as I pushed her along in her new wheelchair. Momma quickly assumed the role of a chatty tour-guide, pointing out birds, bugs and pinecones. Her commentary about the ponds and how they were formed would give you the impression she knew the park intimately, yet she has only been to this park one other time, almost 16 years ago when we held our daughter and son-in-law’s wedding rehearsal dinner in its shelter.
In her mind, she has been here hundreds of times. Tomorrow she will not remember having been here even once. That’s the way it is with Alzheimer’s – every few minutes nearly everything is new again. As tragic and depressing as that sounds, there is hidden beauty in forgetting.
Just think of all the times Momma sees things for the “first time.” The hidden beauty in forgetting means that she is content with the little sandwiches I make for her every day, or the leftovers from last night’s supper, because she hasn’t had those foods “in ages”! There is joy in spying the yellow and black bird (a goldfinch) that visits Momma “for the first time this year” several times a day. Thankfully, if Momma is mad at me for some reason, 5 minutes from now I’m the best daughter ever. Whenever we give her a scoop of ice-cream, she relishes it and tells us the same story from her childhood about her father loving ice-cream, just as if she was letting us in on an almost forgotten family secret.
Did you know that God is good at forgetting too?
His divine forgetfulness is definitely not in the same sense as the forgetfulness of my Mom with Alzheimer’s, but the Scriptures assure me that when I stumble as a believer and sin against God, if I confess my sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive my sins (1 John 1:9). And how wonderful to have confidence that, once forgiven, my sin will never be held against me – it will be removed from me as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and he will remember it no more (Hebrews 8:12).
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:12 (ESV)
The not-so-hidden beauty of the Gospel is that God’s divine forgetfulness is available to anyone who will receive this beautiful gift of forgiveness by faith.