Forget the Former Things

‘Forget the former things;do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!

(Isaiah 43:17-18 NIV)
These days I live in the world of memory loss where profound cognitive impairment has robbed a loved one of the ability to remember much. The repetitious questions of earlier years have given way to seeming oblivion. An expressionless face indicates an emptiness of thought. There was a time when we did all we could to prevent the relentless advance of the illness; it seemed easier to live in the past, let alone dwell on the past. But now there seems to be nothing at all. The memory bank is empty. 
We elders are encouraged to cultivate memory. We stimulate memory with sudoku and crossword puzzles. And then communication with those living with dementia includes an often deliberate recall of events long past with statements like: 'I remember .... how we walked along the beach holding hands'. That may provoke a smile and a sense of wellbeing. We have crossed a bridge into the world of the other by stirring a pleasant memory.
Surely the God who gave us memory would want us to preserve it, so why then this instruction to the nation of Israel? They've been reminded of national victories, of triumph over the Egyptians. But now they are in the desert, the wilderness of life. And there God promises He will do 'a new thing'. He deals with the present. 
Some of the past is probably best forgotten. But most deserves to be remembered.
TLM is rightly proud of its history and accomplishments, from Wellesley Bailey to Trevor Durston and Geoff Warne. But His promise applies here too. He wants to do a new thing now.
I could feel proud of what my wife, Margaret, and I have done in Christ's name over decades. But now we face a new phase of life. There is unwelcome decline, but God's promise applies to us too. He will do a new thing with us now. 
The person affected by leprosy may long for the days before infection with mycobacterium leprae. But the promise applies there too. 'I will do a new thing.'
We wonder quite what that will be. God may depend on some of us to fulfil his purpose. But generally we just have to wait patiently for him to show us what it is he will do. Even seemingly small things can be important.
October 2015