I don’t know how many times it’s happened to me. Certainly, it’s more frequent than it used to be. The frustration of trying to ‘recall’ something I have known in the past, but now I just can’t quite remember. Sometimes, it’s the name of a place. “Honey,” I will ask my wife, “What’s the name of that town we visited on vacation,” or “What’s the title of that book I told you I wanted to read?” Not being able to remember things I’ve known for a long time can be frustrating, embarrassing, and sometimes … disconcerting. The other day I was trying to tell someone about a mutual friend of ours, except … except that I couldn’t recall the name of our mutual friend! The challenge of recalling something we’ve previously known can be a natural part of the aging process, I guess.
Sometimes, when I struggle to recall the name of one of my friends, I have a trick I use. I picture the alphabet. I start with A and I slowly recite the alphabet to myself until I come to the first letter of the name of the friend I’m trying to recall. When I associate the first letter of their name with the picture I have in my head of their face? Magically, their name pops into my head, and my frustration is relieved. I often ask myself, after that little exercise, “Why did I have such a hard time recalling their name?”
I’m not overly concerned about these unpredictable lapses or blank spots in my memory. They’re not regular, or chronic. At least, not yet. But that’s not to say that my ability to recall is one of my strengths.
It’s an unfortunate reality for me, that names aren’t the only thing I can have a hard time with, when it comes to what I can recall. For example, I’ve noticed that when I’m in the middle of a particularly stressful or challenging or testing time in my life, and I don’t sense God’s hand in the middle of my storm? I’m not focused on recalling something. I’m more intent on ‘surviving’ something. I’m barely able to keep my nose above the surface of the water without making bubbles. And I’m wondering if, in the midst of my treading life’s unpredictable and angry waters, is God is going to help me?
Asaph, the song writer had a similar experience that he wrote about in Ps. 77. If you read what he wrote, you’ll see that he felt like he was in real trouble. He struggled, and moaned, and fretted, and wrestled with life. He felt pretty hopeless, until … he had total recall. He didn’t use the alphabet, like me, to remember a place he used to be or the name of the God he thought he knew. Instead, he played that imaginary ‘video’ we all have in our heads; scenes of experiences he had, examples of God’s faithfulness. In other words, he began to recall.
Verse 11 of that 77th Psalm says, “But then I recall all you have done, O Lord;
I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works.”
It’s very true that there may be times in my life when I can’t connect a name with a face. I can’t quite pull up a place I visited with my family on vacation, or the name of a book someone recommended to me. That kind of absent-minded recall isn’t really a big deal in my life.
But if fail in my recalling of all the many times God has worked on my behalf — if I stop my constant thinking about all His mighty works — that kind of absent-minded thinking will have a profound impact on how I notice the storms, how I see my world, and how I live my life.