Remembering is important. But it’s not only important that we remember, it’s also important what we remember.
Last week I stopped at an inexpensive motel on my way across the desert.
In the morning I was going to do a bit of work at the desk before finishing the drive. So I turned on the lamp. It didn’t work. I looked at it and discovered it had no bulb. So about 5:40 or 6 in the morning I went to the front desk to get a new one.
The man at the front desk told me he couldn’t help me because he didn’t have any bulbs at the desk.
I was a little surprised. I guess I’m used to nicer hotels where they would never tell a guest, “No, I can’t help you.”
But I accepted that he couldn’t help and asked if I could get a bulb from the cleaning staff.
“No. They’re not here. They don’t show up till 9.”
Probably the main thing I’m not reporting was his tone of voice. Someone could have delivered his line with compassion. He chose something that sounded more like defiance and anger.
I tried again. “Okay,” I said. “Can you point me to the nearest grocery store where I can buy a light bulb?”
His response shocked me so much I’m not sure I can get it verbatim. It was something like, “Oh no, sir. You cannot do that. You cannot do that. You cannot destroy this hotel like that.”
I know. You probably don’t believe he could have said that either.
I’m not sure I remember his exact words. But he very clearly accused me of taking willful destructive action against the motel if I bought them a light bulb.
At that point, I realized there was no way this conversation was going to get any better if I persisted.
I walked away from it.
I thought about buying them a light bulb anyway. But I decided to shake it off and get back to work.
So here’s the question.
In a year, what will I choose to remember about that stay? Because 99% of the room worked. The TV worked, the cable worked, the bed worked, the shower worked, the hot and cold water worked, the AC worked, the heat worked, there were towels and sheets and carpet and a desk and a chair and a fridge and. . . . I could go on and on and on. Everything in that room worked. There was only thing that was broken. (Two, if you count the guy at the front desk.) So what will I choose to remember?
Most of us face some version of this question with our lives.
What will we choose to remember?
Will we remember the few things that don’t work?
Or the many things we take for granted that are such a blessing?
Will we remember the times that were genuinely hard? Or the mercy of God that God us through?
Will we remember the setbacks? Or the accomplishments that they inspired?
God, help us to remember the good things that surround us. Thank you so much for your generosity. Amen.
Philippians 4:8 (NRSV)
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.