The God who remembers

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People were shaking my hand after the worship service, like they usually do, “fellowshipping” with one another on their way out.
Then, one of my older friends asked me a question that caught me off guard.
“What is dementia?” she asked, innocently.
I filtered that question through her condition: it has been less than a year since she was diagnosed with dementia, something she wanted the church to know, so we could pray for her.
My heart ached for her as I looked into her vacant eyes.
And so, I gave her the best non-medical definition I knew to give in that moment: “It’s when people have trouble remembering…”
I had just preached a sermon on heaven, and I suspected the topic prompted her next question: “How much time do I have before heaven?”
None of us know that, do we? Illness on our part brings the question closer to home, but when we stop and think about it, we know God has promised none of us tomorrow, or even this afternoon, for that matter. We have ways of pushing the question back, sometimes with a joke.
Like the one about the Irish priest who walks into a pub and asks the first guy at the bar if he wants to go to heaven.
“Yes, of course,” the man says.
“Then line up over there, against the wall,” the priest tells him.
The man obeys, and the priest repeats the question to another and then another, all of whom want to go to heaven and all of whom dutifully line up against the wall.
Then, the priest asks a fourth man, who abruptly answers, “no.” This maverick apparently does not want to go to heaven and will not line up with the others against the wall.
The priest is flabbergasted. He cannot believe anyone would not want to go to heaven.
“Oh, but I do want to go to heaven,” the man explains to the shocked priest.
“But from the look of things,” the man continued, “you were getting ready to send up a group right now.”
If we are truthful, most of us would be in that guy’s category. We want to go to heaven but not now.
Paul, the Apostle, had different thoughts: “I’m torn between two desires,” he wrote the Christians in Philippi. “I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live” (Philippians 1:23-24).
Paul was ready to go on to heaven, which he said, was better for him. But he was content to stay on earth, for that would be better for those whom he served.
Now, my friend who is suffering from a dreaded disease, was concerned about her future, and her illness had confused her, and I hurt with her in that moment, which really is, whether we have dementia or not, THE MOMENT.
“Will God remember me with favor, when it comes to that time, that everlasting moment, when my life is in the balance, for eternity?”
This is the question, and it is an ultimate one, above all the other seemingly important questions, like, “Will I get tickets to the game? Will I pass the class? Will the kids be okay? Will I get the promotion? Will I have enough for retirement?”
The ultimate question, “Am I okay for my eternity?” overpowers all others in its significance.
I hugged my sweet friend: “God doesn’t suffer from dementia. And he remembers us, even when we can’t remember Him, or ourselves, or anyone else, and he will bring his children, whom he knows, home at the right time.”
I could see a blanket of peace cover her face as she thought of God always remembering his own, his children.
And as she walked away, in the arms of her dear husband, my heart felt strangely warmed, too, at that thought: our Father will never forget his own, and will come for them, when it’s time, His time, to draw them near, into his everlasting arms, forever.
Editor’s note: You can contact David Whitlock, Ph.D., at drdavid@davidwhitlock.org. His website is www.davidwhitlock.org.