Are you like me? Do you spend hours and hours of your life forgetting the one you claim to love the most? Do you grieve when you realise all that you have left behind as you’ve become more and more distracted by other, mediocre things?
Remembering God, for those such as us, can be a challenge. We have to keep on coming back, keep on going over the basics, keep on reminding ourselves of a greater reality.
For me, this has been a journey. I wrote a book about it, but that wasn’t journey’s end. I still need to remind myself to remember!
It’s hard to summarise such an emotive theme with bullet points – but here are just a few thoughts that might help us begin:
- Get to know yourself
As individuals we, better than anyone, know what we have the most trouble with. We recognise the things that consume our focus, the things that distract us most easily. Understanding the way we work will also help us harness the positives – realising how we learn, how we see the world will help us think creatively. Don’t think that in order to be ‘spiritual’ you have to meet someone else’s templates. We can explore ways of praying and reflecting on God and take note of what we find most helpful – and nurture those aspects in our lives.
- Make a habit
We all have rhythms of living. Some may be very structured, others more fluid. But within these rhythms we form habits, not just of things we do but of how we think and speak, our attitudes, our reactions. What habits help our spiritual lives? How can we build on those and lessen the power of habitual distraction?
Association is a powerful tool. We already do it, without thinking about it. There will be all sorts of things that act as memory triggers for us – a place, an object, a taste or a smell. What are the things we associate with seeking God? How can we ensure we ‘trip over’ them regularly?
A physical object can hold lots of associations. You could have a box of these. They can be anything: something you used in a prayer activity at church, an object that reminds you of a place where you had a new experience of God, a picture that helps you reflect on God’s character. Keeping a journal is another way to ‘hold onto’ what we learn in our lives of discipleship.
- And, breathe…
Make time to rest. Often we fill our ‘rest’ times with distractions, just another kind of busyness. Our brains get so used to being busy they don’t know how to stop; it’s a real discipline to rest, to learn to slow down. We always feel we should be doing, doing, doing. But even if it’s just 15 minutes occasionally in a day, it’s good to teach ourselves to slow down and rest. Think about what you’re choosing to do with your ‘downtimes’. It will be hard at first – you’re breaking a brain-deep habit. But within these times of ‘soul quietness’ we can once again learn to detect the still small voice. Rest is God’s invention; it’s to be delighted in, not to feel guilty about!
- Above all: ask, and keep asking
We can’t do this alone. I’m so forgetful of God in my life that sometimes I despair. And yet despite my neglect, despite my spiritual flabbiness, despite my long wanderings, God has never let me down. It’s God’s Holy Spirit who can give me the strength to remember and so I ask (beg, grumble, whatever I may be feeling):
Change me, O Lord my God, and give me a remembering heart. However fractured my memories become, however my mind may fail me – give me a heart that always returns to you.
Originally posted on the DLT books blog. Forgetful Heart is published by Darton, Longman and Todd.