Thoughts from Melissa: Selective Memory (by Melissa Newton)

As a teenager, one of the many phrases I heard all the time from my dad was that I had “selective memory”.  My mom would be upset at me because I had forgotten to do something she asked me to do. “Melissa, why didn’t you _____?!!!”, she would ask, and my answer would be something along the lines of  “I don’t know? I don’t remember  you saying anything about it.”  About that time my dad would pipe up and say, “That’s because you have selective memory…you choose what you remember and what you don’t remember.”  Apparently I have CHOSEN to remember that I hated when he said that!

Now, fast forward a few years. Ok, Maybe a few more, like 10 to 15 years. Now I feel old.

Thankfully, my parents aren’t scolding me for forgetting things anymore because they don’t have to deal with my forgetfulness.  But there are times when I  still hear my dad saying in my head “you have selective memory!”  Now, anyone who has known me for any length of time will know that I really do have a very bad memory: especially when I’m pregnant. My poor husband can attest to this.

But, recently, since I have moved to the mission field, I have really found myself having selective memory. So, I hear my dad’s voice a lot more than I want to. I’m not forgetting tasks, instead I find myself choosing to remember the fantasy and not the reality.  Lets be honest, missionary wives are sometimes known for being a little on the…well…whiny side? And let me just go ahead and say, I am not thinking of anyone else when I write this, I am completely being honest and thinking of myself.

Although I absolutely love living in Spain , it has not been an easy adjustment or transition.  Like anyone else would, I have experienced culture shock.  There are days where it is very easy to look at situations and think, “I would not be going through this if I were back at home in Georgia.”

For example: Going to the grocery store would not take twice or even 3 to 4 times as long if I were home where I could understand what the labels on everything said.  Or, since here they don’t use carpet in the home, our house if filled with beautiful white tile. Its pretty until my kids wake up, come home, or just walk across it. Also I get irritated that my washer takes 3 hours to get our clothes washed, and that is the fast cycle! Another thought I deal with is how I am sick of being the outsider.  I hate not knowing how to talk to people.  I could go on and on because frankly, we can always find more to complain about.

The truth of the matter is that no matter where I am, there are always things that annoy us.  There are always circumstances that aren’t ideal.  I have selective memory because I choose to only remember the things that I liked about being in the States.  I start grumbling, complaining,  feeling sorry for myself, painting myself as a martyr and all around making myself depressed.

Why is it selective memory? Because I chose not to remember that it has always annoyed me to go to American grocery stores because there are way too many products to choose from. I’m sure other women can relate to how their husbands get annoyed because we take too long trying to pick out a cereal or shampoo or just a kind of lunch meat. How many times have you heard, “JUST GRAB ONE AND LET’S GO!!!”

And I chose to forget that although carpet  hides dirt and dust so much better, our allergies were really bad because it’s easier to forget about dirt and dust when you can’t see it! My washer here may take 3 hours and the one I had in the states took 45 minutes, but if I’m honest with my memory, it didn’t get my clothes completely clean!

I also chose to forget that even in the states I was an outsider most of the time.  Because if you spend any time outside of your home and you are a Christian, you are an outsider.  Although I struggle to talk to people because I don’t know all of the words or the correct way to speak, I struggled every day to talk to people in the states because I was just too apathetic or too shy.

I am not saying that we need to get rid of selective memory: maybe there is a way to have selective memory that would actually help.  What if, instead of choosing to remember the all the fantasies of things being so much easier or better, why don’t I try to remember the reality? The reality of all those things that I mentioned is that, things were not easier or better in the states, they were just… different.

Maybe all this talk about being a missionary wife is something that most people can’t relate to, so let me go a different route.  I also have selective memory with my husband and kids: its always easy to think about the bad stuff and not remember the truth.  For instance, I could think about how I miss the days where I got more sleep or my house wasn’t so hard to keep clean before I had kids.

But the truth about my life, and the yours too if you are a Christian, is that ours are stories of grace upon grace, blessing upon blessing. We have no excuse to complain and act like God has cheated us somehow when He has given us all things.

Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

II Cor 4:14-15, “Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”

We have the choice; every one of us has selective memory. What do you focus on, what dominates your thought life? Let’s let the Gospel be the center of our thoughts and attitudes, not our circumstances!

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”


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