“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us….. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves.” A. W. Tozer
There is a very delicate balance between the value of remembering and forgetting. Too often, we forget what we should remember and we remember what we wish we could forget. Forgetting relevant and necessary information can inconvenience and even devastate daily life; but the same impact goes for remembering un-necessary and irrelevant memories and ideas. Such phenomenon can distract us from keeping our focus on our present worth and tasks at hand or hold us back from moving forward with ease and agility towards what we hope for. Contrary to what may make sense, the past and the future always linger in our present tense state of being and influence us in powerful ways. The art of forgetting is a mental method by which we maintain perspective on what matters most, ‘here and now’. Otherwise, we stumble and hinder ourselves from getting ‘there and then.’
The things that swirl in our brains at any given moment as well as the things that swirl in our universe itself (which incidentally our brains swirl in, as we consider what we swirl in) are incredibly complex systems. If we try to consider it all at once, our heads can spin off kilter. I have felt that feeling of vertigo when I try to comprehend too much at the same time. In fact, we are hard wired to compensate for this sensation – our bodily functions are divided into voluntary and involuntary operations to help us sanely survive. Think of what it would be like if we constantly had to remember to make our hearts beat or our lungs breathe. Think of what it would be like if we were consciously aware of every sensation we encounter in a moment while we try to manage decision making – every aroma, texture, visual detail, sounds compounded with calculating numbers, deciphering conversations etc. We’d keel over from the over-stimulation. There are moments when it is necessary to consider these factors, but only in proportion to the task we are aiming to complete. Our past experiences with all stimuli always have the potential to interfere with how we process our current train of thought and/or happenings in invalid ways. Our ability to enjoy or avoid some present factor can be readily influenced by our past happenstances. And our eagerness or hesitancy to get to the goal we are pursuing can falter our efforts in the process. Is your head spinning yet from all this consideration? Take a deep breath. Be still and simply know that we don’t have to have it all figured out right now. Discard the content from the past that seeks to sabotage our ability to do this. We so easily let guilt and shame dictate our present condition and we worry about the future in ways that inhibit our present capacity to truly be successful.
The practice of being still can also parallel the experience of how runners race. The first method provides us with the opportunity to readjust our body and mind. People who practice contemplative prayer use this exercise to help them focus on what is most important to most powerfully influence life factors. They simply repeat in a steady rhythm the phrase “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). To emphasize the power of being present with God and allowing God’s presence to be with us, they simplify this phrase word by word in their prayer time with each breath. They leave off the last word with each new breath. They pray, “be still and know that I am, be still and know that I, be still and know that,” until all that is left to say and pray is “be”. I have practice this meditative prayer method and found it powerfully grounding. The vertigo I feel dissipates and I can focus again in a way that is invigorating, purposeful and productive. For runners, the need to keep moving uses a similar methodology in a manner that provides perpetual motion and momentum. The apostle Paul describes this lifestyle practice so vividly and validly when he wrote to the church in Philippi. He wrote:
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)
I love to run. Though I’m not a fierce competitor, I relish the experience of concentration and coordination. When I hit my stride, each step has a rhythmic beat and my body and mind feel in sync. My thoughts are focused, even if deeply occupied with one thing or another. It is not all things all at once, lest I lose my awareness of the terrain I currently tread and trip. There is a definite freedom in forgetting – I have come to appreciate Paul’s cheer when he detailed, “forgetting what is behind and straining for what is ahead”.
Forgetting is its own effort that takes place purposefully to dis-inhibit us from the heavy thoughts or memories that seek to weigh and slow us down. If I let go of such recall; I can run more effortlessly towards a certain duration or destination. But, I must take care in making sure my muscles and movement keep pace. God’s glory is my focus and motivation. Anything that encumbers this effort must be forgotten.
- Consider; photograph by Kamyee Wong Ladas and Jamie Wasson 1998
- Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer
- Diary of An Old Soul by George MacDonald