The Unforgetting God

I go there from time to time. The lady I visit is the wife of an old friend from another part of the country. He went to be with the Lord several years ago. Even then, she had begun, as the British can affectionately say, “to lose her marbles.” Since then, in God’s kindness, she has been moved to a nursing home not far from where I serve.

I visit when I can, not least as she has not been able to come to the church services very often. While the physical environment is delightful, and the care staff seem diligent and caring, there are many sad sights and sounds and smells.

On this last occasion, there was an old man sitting on a chair just inside the front door. He was trying to put in his false teeth. He could not work out how to do it, and kept pushing them in upside down and back to front. One of the staff found him and patiently tried to help him get it all sorted out.

I walked through to find my friend. In the room where she was sitting there was a lady shouting for help. To be fair, she is probably often shouting for help, and so the staff kept working with other individuals. However, when she became insistent and agitated, it became clear that she needed to get to a toilet quickly. Her cries of need echoed down the corridor as she was wheeled away.

One lady seemed competent to the point of bossy. One quickly got the impression that she had probably had a very responsible position in life, and that was still foremost in her mind. Five or six times in the course of thirty minutes she checked with me (and with several others) to make sure that they knew what they were doing - usually taking responsibility for a property of some sort. When in doubt, she assigned various duties to people, making sure that we were all up to speed.

In one corner of the room an old man came in and sat down. The sun filtered through the window in bright beams in front of him. He reached into one of the beams, twisting his fingers as if trying to catch something. Whatever he thought he was capturing obviously tasted good, in his mind at least, because he kept trying to get whatever he thought was in his hands into his mouth. Needless to say, he seemed to become a little frustrated.

And then there was my friend. While she remains in good physical health, her memory has continued to suffer. She looked well, and seemed to be neat in her person. There is still an intelligence there, but a little .. what? Further back? Redirected? Misapplied? She is still forthright and direct, with a little mischief. She has her good days, and her bad days. On this day she rambled a little - not one of her better days. That said, I only got some of the usual stories. Her first concern was that I take proper account of her shoes. Then she was rather fixed upon the daffodils, and that seemed to spark a variety of reflections on colour. Colour was very important to her on this particular day. The yellows were clearly exciting, but the greens and blues were also quite stimulating. I did wonder if this would be one of the days when it would be hard to keep any conversation on track.

But then we were able to get to the Bible. I mentioned some recent sermons, and suggested that we could read from the eighth of Romans. “If you want,” she said. I opened the Bible. She grabbed it.

That’s fairly normal. If I suggest singing a hymn, she agrees, and then cracks on. She knows so many of the older hymns, especially those from a particular hymnbook with which she is familiar. Sometimes she just starts singing. Sometimes she waits to find a hymnbook.

She once reduced one of the staff to tears. It had been a particularly trying day, and my friend had been slower than usual in responding. I happened to drop by, and we recited Psalm 23 together. She was word perfect, and smiling sweetly throughout. Those words from those lips left the staff member deeply moved.

We found Romans 8. I suggested reading the last part of the chapter:

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

She struggled a bit with some of the longer words, but she read with sense and feeling. No one else was there to hear.

She read those stirring truths, off the back of a portion of God’s Word that reminds us that we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Rom 8.23). And there she sat, waiting for the adoption, and reading about the love of God and of his Son, and the fact that there is nothing in all of creation that will separate her from that love.

She has forgotten much, but the deep grooves of Christian memory, formed over years of faithful living, keep her looking to Christ. In the words of one of the hymns we have sung, heavily anglicised and poeticised from Krishna Pal’s original:

O thou, my soul, forget no more

The friend who all thy misery bore;

Let every idol be forgot,

But, O my soul, forget Him not.

She may yet forget more. But, no matter how much she forgets, the Lord who has loved her and saved her will never forget her: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” Jn 10.27–30). In the words of another hymn:

My name from the palms of His hands

Eternity will not erase;

Impressed on His heart it remains,

In marks of indelible grace;

Yes, I to the end shall endure,

As sure as the earnest is given;

More happy, but not more secure,

The glorified spirits in heaven.

However old (or young), however manifestly weak (or apparently strong), whatever our circumstances, there is our hope. Whatever we forget, he forgets us not.

Jeremy Walker was born to godly parents and was converted to Christ during his teenage years. He has been a pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church since 2003. He is married to Alissa, with whom he enjoys the blessing of three children.

Jeremy Walker