The Perils of Forgetting Who You Are
There’s a lot of amnesia going around lately, and I wonder if you might be a victim. To my surprise, I’ve discovered that I’m a recovering amnesiac myself. More on that in a moment, but first let me give you some background on the kind of amnesia I’m referring to.
Several years ago, my wife and I watched a rather lame made-for-TV movie on the Lifetime network. A woman was comatose after a serious car accident, and when she awoke she had no idea who she was. Eventually she regained her identity and reestablished her relationship with family members, but it wasn’t easy.
There’s a similar scene in my favorite musical, “Man of La Mancha.” Don Quixote has fallen into a coma after suffering what amounts to a nervous breakdown, and he’s seemingly on this deathbed.
When visited by the love of his life, the “virtuous lady Dulcinea” (also known as the barmaid Aldonza), he doesn’t even recognize her. Even worse, he doesn’t seem to recognize himself as the valiant knight who had once pursued “the impossible dream.”
It’s a terrible thing to forget who you are. But fortunately, Don Quixote rediscovered his dream and remembered who he was. Reawakened to his destiny, he was ready again “to march into hell for a heavenly cause.”
I had a similar experience recently. No, I wasn’t in an accident, nor did I fall into a coma or experience a nervous breakdown. I certainly wasn’t on my deathbed, at least not physically. But just like the woman in the TV movie or Don Quixote, I had forgotten who I was.
My recovery was triggered by a phone call I made to an old friend named Jim Byers. We live in different states, and I had lost touch with for more than a decade until the day I happened to stumble across him on Facebook.
At first this phone call was a little awkward. What would we talk about after so long? I considered ending the call after just a few minutes, saying something like, “Well, it was great hearing your voice again, Jim. I just wanted to say hello.” But like a mighty locomotive, the conversation slowly gained momentum. We talked of old times, when we joyously ministered together and reached out to pastors and churches across the state of Ohio in the 1980s. God really used us, and we had a blast in the process.
Although I lost track of how long we talked, it must have been more than an hour and a half. I rarely talk to anyone that long, but it was worth it. So what does any of this have to do with amnesia?
After my marathon conversation with Jim Byers, I concluded that I had forgotten a piece of who I am. Oh, it’s not that I have a bad life now. I have some friends here in the Carolinas, and I believe my preaching and writing have never been more powerful.
Yet there was something special about the way God used Jim Byers and me to encourage pastors and help them find the resources they needed for greater vitality in their churches. I miss those days, just like I’ve missed the depth of friendship I experienced with Jim.
Of course, there’s another side of this. Paul says we should forget some of the things in our past so we can press onward toward our calling in Christ (Philippians 3:12-14). Yet he also told Timothy to REMEMBER and “fan into flame” what God had spoken to him and done in his life in the past (1 Timothy 1:18, 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:5-7 NIV).
If Timothy was to “fight the battle well,” he needed to remember who he was. What about you? Have you, by chance, forgotten some important aspect of who God has gifted you to be? Do you need to read some of your old journals or have a conversation with a friend you haven’t talked to in decades?
If you’ve been an amnesiac like me, this can be your day to reawaken your dreams. It’s time to remember the glorious quest that once brought great joy to your heart.