Last night, I was listening to a Kyle Mills book, and the lead character – Agent Mark Beamon – is trying to avoid a rather nasty smell by chewing gum. Throughout the scene, he keeps adding another stick of gum until he’s chewing five sticks of gum at the same time. I heard that tiny little tidbit, and immediately I remembered that when I was a kid, most packs of gum came with five pieces. I was sort of awed that I remembered this fact and that the memory of it was so crucial to me in some way. How could I have forgotten that I knew something that had once seemed so fundamental?
It’s not really the fact that a pack of Juicy Fruit has five sticks that was so important; what really mattered in that moment was that I knew that I knew something and yet that knowledge had been so dormant for so long only to come back with the clarity and vividness of one of my most fond memories.
As I thought about gum, I remembered all the other little things that come with that fact – the “Gum Man” at church who gave all the kids sticks of Juicy Fruit between Sunday School and church; the first lie I ever told when I wanted another piece of Juicy Fruit from my mom (I said I dropped it in the dirt when actually it was tucked into my cheek); the way no pack of gum every worked out for my brother and I to share because there was always an extra piece that had to be split. One random piece of trivia sparked a small fire of memories and carried me back to the time when this information was important and somehow vital to my existence.
I wonder what else I have forgotten that I really should remember. I would love to be able to cull through my memories and find things, but of course, memory doesn’t work like that. I won’t be able to find my hidden memories by searching; they’re too tucked into the synapses of my mind like beautiful barns on country roads I didn’t know existed. I’ll just have to come upon them when I wander. That seems pretty glorious to me.
Still, this spark of memory tells me that I also need to be diligent about remembering – daily, hourly, by the minute – the things that are most important in my life – I am loved by a God who only wants the best for me; I am loved by people who know me and love me nonetheless; I am forgiven day after day; I have a purpose for which I am called; I have a joy that will one day be complete. These are not tiny things wrapped in slips of aluminum foil and tucked into a yellow package; these are the giant galaxies of truth that envelop my every day. Yet oddly, these are sometimes the things I most easily forget in my daily wanderings. I often need tiny reminders to call me back to these big things – gum in a novel, words on a page, hugs from those around me, and whispers in my ear saying, “I love you. All is well.”