Probably everyone’s biggest concern during the studying for and taking of finals is remembering. Remembering formulas, dates, quotes, concepts and so forth is the primary concern, and students will stay up all night trying to pack a semester’s worth of information into their heads.
I think, during this time, that we need to reflect on forgetting.
If we forget the information the professor expects us to know, we just might fail our tests. If we forget who we are in Christ, we might fail the test of life. There is only one test, and it’s how much you loved with Christ’s love.
For people of faith, our sin problem (the majority of the time) is not an active one. Our temptation is to be passive and forget to apply what we know about our faith to the way we see ourselves and others. We don’t usually choose sin knowing exactly what it will do to ourselves and others. We forget.
We forget that the world doesn’t revolve around us when in that moment of decision, and we choose what will please us rather than others.
We forget a time when we had no faith, and we fail to reach out to a stranger who is searching for the truth we own. Or maybe we had faith but it wasn’t the Catholic faith, and we fail to watch that our words aren’t flippant when talking about our faith.
We forget what it was like to be alone when we’re surrounded by the faces of those we love. We forget that we made the same mistakes when we react harshly to a friend’s errors.
We forget that the best stories are the ones that tell of failure.
Yet what does every hero do after he hits that brick wall of failure? He has two options: to fall down or to climb that wall.
Failure is not actually the end. And neither is forgetting. Yes, we forget. That’s our sin problem. We have flawed memories, and it’s impossible to be actively virtuous in every single moment without either being a saint or going insane.
But failure can be the impetus of success. Only by failing the first test of the semester can you realize that you need to study harder for the next one. This forces you to be active rather than passive in your efforts. It’s the same with the spiritual life. If you’re passively floating along a river, you will be floating downstream. There is no other option. Sometimes we need a hard rock in the water to wake us up to the reality that we have to swim in order to escape the stream’s endless flow.
Forgetting is extremely frustrating. Whether it’s on a test or in a relationship, our moments of passivity can bring us to a point of failure. But we can’t let our weakness frustrate us to inaction. Failure is intended to draw us out of our passive approach to life into an active pursuit of life.
This action will only come after a choice to climb that brick wall, and it’s not easy. Failure is one of the hardest aspects of human life to achieve, and there is no expert to look to, since every human being does it daily. It’s difficult to be an active participator in life; it’s much easier to watch others try and either look down on them or envy them depending on how they fail or accomplish their goals.
Yet why do I even have to say “watch others”? Why aren’t we all striving together to overcome that brick wall? Failure is conquered much easier by one of the most important gifts that God has given us: each other.
Accountability is crucial in the Christian life, and the older I get, the more I realize I need the support of my friends in order to be, by any definition, successful. We are created to make up for each other’s forgetfulness.
Thus, as we close out the semester and I close my time as assistant editor after three semesters, I suggest we remember. Whether you remember all the information, which may be entering your brain at 3 a.m. the day before your final, is up to someone else.