The known and the forgotten

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I caught her stare from across the room. The distance between us was not that far, and no one else was there besides the two of us. But it wasn’t the absence of distance between us that sealed my attention. It was her eyes, dark, deep pools reflecting an unspoken invitation to come nearer, while also somehow asking, “Why are you here?”

It was October 2016. Ashley and I were with my board and their spouses for a planning retreat for Rural America Ministries, a non-profit I had started in 2012. We were staying in an old ranch house built
over a century before near Black Mesa in the farthest western tip of the Oklahoma Panhandle. If you’ve never been to this part of Oklahoma, unlike the plains of the central and western part of the state or the
rolling, wooded hills further east, it is a place of mesas, cactus, and canyons. A place where the stars in the night sky rule, their brilliant light competing with nothing but the blackness of space above and minimal human habitation below. A slice of New Mexico on the Oklahoma side of the state line. And it was here, on the wall of the bedroom where we were staying, hung a black and white photo of this unnamed, unknown woman from the distant past. Her gaze compelling me to stare back in curious
wonder, asking questions in my head she could not answer, “What was your name? Was this your home when it was new a hundred years ago? What joys did you know? Sorrows, pain, and disappointments?
Did you know what it felt like to love and be loved? If you could speak to me now, what would you say?”

Despite her silence, her impact was deafening. If you look closely at the picture you will notice my reflection. That was an unexpected outcome of my taking a picture of her. It was fitting because it visually (and literally!) framed us together – the past and the present, the known and the forgotten, in a metaphorical proximity that reminds me – like her, soon I too will be forgotten. All the events of my life, every word, action, and interaction will fade from human memory. A handful of humanity leaves a slight recorded trace of their earthly existence, but most of us live a lifetime of thoughts and feelings, and actions defined by good or evil motives that future generations will have no knowledge of soon after we’re gone. But maybe this doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s a different question to be answered. The question I saw in her eyes, “Why are you here?”

Could it be, in answering correctly that question, it doesn’t matter if another human remembers I was here. Could it be that our lifetime, so far as remembering is concerned, is our time to remember our Creator? “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth . . . “ (Ecclesiastes 12:1) Why? Because He will not forget you were here. It matters to God that we were here, and that is all that matters.

Make the most of every moment. We will answer for them when they’re completed, and that makes all the difference in this world and the next.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the duty of all mankind.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13