I received a book journal for Christmas this year. It has all the appearance of an address book, with the alphabetical tabs along the edge. I am encouraged to fill a whole page with the book title, the name of the author and his or her nationality, the day I read the book and whether the book has any awards or was translated from another language. There is a huge space for a quotation and another huge space for my opinion of the book along with a five star rating system.
I have made just the single entry so far – “The Winter Ghosts” by Kate Moss. It’s a very well written, but very sad ghost story.
Our bookshelves are turning into a library – sometimes with multiple copies of the one book. You see, I love browsing the book shelves of charity shops. I will pick out a book, read the blurb on the back cover, allow my imagination to be ignited and buy the book – and then find that I bought the book a number of months ago – or years – perhaps even read it. My memory, never that great at its peak, is an inconsistent beast.
I am not quite ready for my next entry but I have found a quotation. The blurb on the back is about a shooting at a Salvation Army concert in the middle of a Norwegian city centre where the assassin realises he shot the wrong man. I am just about half way through the book and the shooting – and the realisation he has the wrong man – has just happened. Yes, it is slow moving.
“Harry had once said that what separates a good detective from a mediocre one is the ability to forget. A good detective forgets all the times his gut instinct let him down, forgets all the leads he that he believed in that led him nowhere. And pitches in, naive and forgetful again, with undiminished enthusiasm.”
As much as my memory forgets sometimes the essential things, the things that it seems to hold onto, with a fierce tenacity, are the not so good things. I remember the things people have said that have upset me or criticised me. I remember injuries done, deliberate or accidental. I remember disappointments and failures. The trouble is that I have gone over things in my mind, reconstructing conversations – the truth as I saw it – without realising that I have been revising it in subtle ways. My recollection of what happened that day is probably not what happened at all! Don’t call me for a witness at a trial – I will crumble at the cross-examination.
“The ability to forget” is something that is not just good for good detectives, but for us all. I am not sure when, perhaps as a teacher, my enthusiasm diminished. I dare say it wasn’t one single event, but the steady, slow drip of years of dealing with difficult classes, or teaching lessons that I had never really got my head around. I struggle with the ability to forget.
I think about all the areas of my Christian life and whether my enthusiasm is undiminished. I am not sure that I am the one to ask. If I say “No” you will perhaps say, “Show me the evidence!” If I say “Yes” you may perhaps seek to encourage me by sympathetically patting my hand.
My enthusiasm may not always be demonstrated in being the first to volunteer of something, or be shown in my presence at every meeting that happens. I may not always pray in the prayer meeting, or sing in the worship sessions, or take reams of notes as the preacher speaks – but those things are not indicators of my enthusiasm.
I have a desire to draw closer to God and invite him into my waking, eating, walking, working, cleaning, reading, writing, talking, resting, sleeping parts of my life – not just the singing, praying and reading the Bible bits.
Giving God unlimited access to my life means there will always be new challenges that will call me to “pitch in, naive and forgetful again, with undiminished enthusiasm.”
God sets the ultimate example in forgetting by placing my sin as far away as the east is from the west. Maybe forgetting is the wrong word. God chooses not to remember these things. His enthusiasm to see His purposes come to pass will always be undiminished