I sometime decry revisionist historians or, more commonly, those who seem to have a selective or simply inaccurate memory of events that transpired some time ago. Such things are not uncommon or, rather, are common; we are flawed rememberers, continually recasting events in a way favorable to us. As a lawyer, I see this all the time. People see things from different perspectives. We seek the objective truth, what really happened, but so often it's like trying to describe an elephant to someone when all you can see of it is the trunk. It's not necessarily inaccurate, it's just not fully accurate. And then maybe your own prejudices or sinful tendencies color your perception. I can offer personal examples.
When I was about four years of age, my sister pushed me off my tricycle. I fell on the asphalt and scraped my chin and had to have stitches. This is one of the few things about being four that I remember. I instinctively blamed her, as in "Mom, she pushed me!" Only thing is, she says she didn't do it. Did she? Or in my childish mind did I simply blame her for my own carelessness? Well, I've carried that belief for all these years, only it may not be true, and we certainly won't know if it's true in this life and likely won't care if it is true in the one to come. That's sin and perspective: Big sister pushes little brother. That's what older siblings do, right?
In the grand scheme of things, it won't matter much whether I simply fell or my big sister pushed me. We've gotten over that a long time ago. (We, did, didn't we sis?) But the fact is, not remembering, or remembering only what we want to remember, can be fatal for nations and individuals. Take the Hebrews on exodus. After weeks of manna (and there's only so many ways you can serve manna), they were remembering Egypt in a somewhat idealistic light,as in "There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted. . .," never mind that they would have been dead Hebrews had they stayed in Egypt. Memory is selective. That and the golden calf ended with several thousand folks getting put to the sword.
This is one reason the church is important. Remembering is a communal task. Left to ourselves, there is no one to challenge us, no one to question our accounts of God's dealing with us, no one to help us remember the foolish things we have done (so we don't repeat them) or encourage us by the right things we have done (so we can see God's working in our lives). And if we fail at corporate remembrance, God will likely send a prophet to us -- a burr in our saddle, a pain in the neck, a disagreeable kind of person who says all the most unpleasant things to us. It's a good incentive to remember His providential care, the ends of foolishness and egotism, and the promise of contentment and peace if we follow Him.
Can you help me remember? If I blame someone else for my troubles, can you help me check the facts? And if I'm discouraged, can you help me remember His covenant promises? As I told a friend a few days ago, thank God I can't have my way all the time, that he has saved me from myself. Thank God He has saved me from my selective skewed memories as well and has provided a remembering community for me to be a part of. We'll never get His story completely right, but we can try.