Not getting lost in the cosmos

Saturday, March 10, 2007

It's a sinking feeling not to be remembered by someone who once knew you.

Years ago, music was the biggest thing in my life. It was about the only thing at which I felt any degree of proficiency. The choral director of my high school chose me as a section leader, and picked me to sing solos at public performances including commencement. A few years later, I saw the director again. I told him how much he had meant to me. He thanked me politely, but it was clear he had no idea who I was.

This happens all the time, doesn't it? Not being remembered, I mean.

A former parishioner of mine once told me that her father was gradually losing his memory to the ravages of dementia. On one visit, her father looked at her and said, "I don't know who you are, but I know I love you!"

Bob Woodruff, the ABC News anchor/reporter, who suffered massive brain injury due to an IED explosion in Iraq a year ago, has been making the rounds of talk shows lately with his wife. His injuries were on the left side of his brain, which he explained is where the memory center is located. Lee Woodruff says one of her fears was that Bob wouldn't love her anymore -- because he wouldn't remember her.

In one of the more appalling stories in recent memory, wounded war veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's Building 18 reported the following: rodent- and cockroach-infested rooms, stained carpets, cheap mattresses, black mold, no heat and no hot water were reported by some soldiers at the facility. The unmonitored entrance has created security problems, including reports of drug dealers in front of the facility

Injured soldiers said they are forced to "pull guard duty" to obtain a level of security. The neglect of these veterans, as graphically detailed by the Washington Post, is an indictment of a bureaucracy with a shoddy memory. If you put yourself in harm's way for your nation, the understanding is that our government will not forget you when you come home. Well, ours did -- there's no way to put that nicely.

Does God forget us? Is God's memory faulty? The thief on the cross implored Jesus, "Remember me when you come into your kingdom." (Luke 23:42)

Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you. ... If it were not so, I would have told you." (John 14:2)

The New Testament also reads, "I will never leave you nor will I forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5) Forsake is pretty close to forget, and the promise is, it won't happen.

Significantly, the promise of God is that we won't get lost in the cosmos. We won't get lost in heaven's bureaucracy. That's a good feeling, one to carry us through those times when someone we thought we knew well says, "Who are you again?"

Jeff Long is pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in Cape Girardeau. Married with two daughters, he is of Scots and Swedish descent, loves movies, and is a lifelong fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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