Feeling Forgotten

There’s a poignant scene at the end of the famous 80’s movie, “The Breakfast Club.” In that movie, a group of misfits, doing Saturday detention together, eventually forms a bond and takes on “the man.” At the end of the movie, one of the main characters raises his hands in victory as he walks away from detention; the final scene before the credits begin to roll. In the background as he pumps his fists high in the air, the song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by the band Simple Minds plays in the background. 

This character feels such a sense of victory because he, like many of the characters in “The Breakfast Club,” finally feels seen, finally feels heard, finally feels remembered; finally, feels not forgotten. 

“The Breakfast Club” and it’s closing song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” are sometimes said to speak to the milieu of 80’s teens: left to their own devices to watch MTV and raise themselves and forgotten by parents busy climbing corporate ladders and trying to keep up with yuppies, they faced a lonely existence where they, indeed, felt forgotten. It’s said that this song, “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” was the voice of that generation, perfectly paired with the movie that spoke to the same. 

Whether or not we buy into such a milieu for Generation X, the reality is clear: none of us like to be forgotten. 

Scripture has these moments, too. In chapter 43 of Isaiah, where we’ll read from in just a moment, the people feel forgotten by God. This is from what’s called Second Isaiah; a portion of Isaiah written after the people had been taken into exile in Babylon. Sitting there, left to their own devices like Gen X but without MTV to watch, they are worried and fearful about the future because, they believe, God has forgotten them. 

Let’s hear God’s response to their worries and fears of being forgotten: Isaiah 43:1-7

Scripture

God clearly notices them, hears them, remembers them. 

We want to be noticed, heard, and remembered, too. Wouldn’t it be great if we heard someone who’s forgotten us say to us, just as God says in the scripture, “I am with you…because you are precious in my sight…and I love you”?

Whether we were teens in the 80s or not, we know what it’s like to feel forgotten in a relationship; to be taken for granted, to feel unseen in our emotions and needs. It happens between parents and children, as emphasized by this 80’s movie and several others. It happens in marriage relationships. It happens with adult siblings. 

Sometimes, married couples get so busy managing the kids and the needs of the house, alongside one or both careers, that it becomes easy to forget about the other spouse. Passion dies when being busy overtakes the house, leaving one or both members of the couple feeling lonely; unseen, unheard, forgotten. 

Sometimes, it happens in valued friendships. We come busy managing the demands of our lives. It becomes easy to forget about our friendships or neglectful in them, leaving our friends feeling forgotten. Or perhaps our friends are just as busy as we are leading to mutual neglect in the relationship. When that happens, one or both parties in the friendship are left feeling lonely, isolated, unseen, unheard, forgotten.

Sometimes, it happens between parents and children. We value too much having our children be busy with extracurricular activities. When being busy takes over a household, with kids going to and fro to various activities, and parents busy with careers and the demands of the household and shuttling the kids around from activity to activity, the moments of honest and healthy connection between parent and child can be few and far between. 

In those moments, families can end up like the famous Harry Chapin song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” with children who feel forgotten and then, when they become adults, do the forgetting themselves. 

Isn’t that the way of things? We’ve all experienced being forgotten in this way in some significant relationship in our lives. And it can happen, like in these examples, even when living in the same house. We can dwell together and not really live together. 

Because we’re busy. Or, sometimes, because there’s a history of hurt and pain. 

That’s the case here in Second Isaiah. The previous prophet, First Isaiah, who wrote the first 39 chapters, had spent much time warning the people about their sins and how they had forgotten God. The ancient Israelites took God for granted: took for granted that God would always be there for them, would always provide for them, would always look after them. They believed because they were the chosen people no harm could befall them. God would always be there. 

They took God for granted. And like in any human relationship where we take our spouse or child or parent or friend for granted, we wound the other person. God’s heart breaks over the loss of relationship with God’s people. And while First Isaiah and many other prophets try to warn the people, they simply won’t listen. So God leaves them to their own devices. God simply lets them do whatever they want to do. It’s really the only option. God loves them so much that God decides, if they want to do their own thing, God will let them. 

And so they do their own thing. Only to discover that when they need God to protect them from the powerful Babylonians, they are defenseless. They had been too busy partying, enjoying luxuries, and living off the wealth they had created from trade, that they have failed to see what prophets said was coming. By the time they realize their error, it’s too late. The Babylonians have destroyed the temple, the palace, most of Jerusalem, killed the king’s sons, and hauled the king and his court to Babylon itself. 

They are now prisoners of Babylon. And as they sit in prison, they think to themselves that they had forgotten God. They cry out to God for restoration of relationship confessing their forgetfulness but, initially, they are met with silence. They busy themselves writing down their traditions, which resulted in many of the books of the Old Testament. They start worshipping again, the best they can, following the law contained in Torah. But despite this religious devotion, they are continually met with silence. 

We can imagine these ancient Israelites, sitting in Babylon, trying to confess their sins, singing “Don’t you [God] forget about me/Will you stand above me?/Look my way? Never love me?” 

That kind of loss in relationship happens. Just as the Israelites had done with God, we take each other for granted. We forget each other. And perhaps we’re left singing like the song by Simple Minds, “Don’t you forget about me/Will you stand above me?/Look my way? Never love me?” It’s like a plea for attention, a hope that perhaps, one day, we’ll be noticed and remembered. 

Examine the relationships in your life. If you’re married, think about your spouse. Do you think your spouse feels seen, heard, noticed, remembered? If you’re a parent, do you think your children feel seen, heard, noticed, remembered? If you’re an adult child, do you remember your parents? Think through the significant relationships in your life. Do those folks feel seen, heard, noticed, remembered? 

Then consider yourself. Do you feel seen, heard, noticed, remembered where it matters the most? By your husband or wife? By your children or parents? By close friends? By the people you’ve brought to mind?

Or do you relate heavily to the words of the song, “Don’t you forget about me? Will you stand above me? Look my way? Never love me?” Only to know how relevant the very next words of that song are, “rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling down, down, down, down.” The downpour of forgetfulness just keeps coming, with no end in sight. 

What are we to do in these moments? Perhaps we’re living in such a moment right now. What do we do? 

If we’re the person who’s feeling forgotten, how do we move past that? If we’re the person who’s been forgetful, taking significant relationships in our lives for granted, how do we move past that? 

Imagine the power and release of the people sitting in exile, feeling forgotten by God, when they hear these words from Second Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you…Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” The short version? God remembers them. 

Imagine being the ancient Israelites who’d been met by silence despite their religious devotion and their confession of sin. Now, imagine the power of hearing God finally speak those words saying, “I do not forget you. I remember you. You are mine, precious in my sight, honored, and I love you.” Such words wash away ill-will, bitterness and resentment that have, perhaps, piled up over time. They cover over a multitude of sins by the people against God and they are restored to right relationship. 

God never forgot them. They, by their own sins and forgetfulness of God, landed themselves in exile. But God will not forget and abandon them. God remembers. 

That’s the power in our relationship with God. Unlike a church sign I saw recently that quoted God saying, “I saw that!” We believe in a God who forgives, who wants relationship with us so much that God never forgets us, never takes us for granted. Sometimes we can take God for granted and put distance in the relationship, sometimes we can be forgetful ourselves; but God never is. God says elsewhere, “never will I leave you, nor forsake you.” That’s the promise of scripture. Indeed, John Wesley, in his dying breath, said, “the best of all is, God is with us.” God is with us; God does not forget, God remembers. 

Second Isaiah opens with chapter 40, verse 1, which reads, “Comfort, O comfort, my people.” Indeed, these words here in chapter 43 and across all of Second Isaiah are comforting for a people who feel forgotten by God. Indeed, the best of all is, God is with us; God remembers us, God will not abandon us, we are not forgotten. 

And those same words are the pathway for us to restore rlght relationship where we have been forgetful or feel forgotten. 

Where we have been forgetful of God, we can always go back to God and say in the words of verse 4, “you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” And God will receive us back with open arms. That is the task where we have failed in our divine-human relationship like the Israelites: go to God, confessing our forgetfulness, and telling God we still want relationship; we still love God. 

Where we have been forgetful in our human relationships, the path forward is the same. Imagine a husband, who’s been taking his wife for granted, realizing the issue and going to his wife saying, “you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” The power of comfort, of release of fear, the covering over of a multitude of sins, the healing of bitterness and resentment; all of that comes with those words. It doesn’t fix everything but it’s a powerful start to healing and wholeness in a relationship that’s been neglected, forgotten. 

Where we feel forgotten and taken for granted; where bitterness and resentment have built up, where we think that the parent or child or spouse or friend or other significant person in our lives fails to see us and remember us; where we feel forgotten, we can act as our own advocate. Before this chapter in Isaiah, the people were going to God saying the words of verse 4, “you, God, are precious in [our] sight, and honored, and [we] love you.” We can do the same, letting the person know that we feel forgotten but that the relationship is still honored, that the person is still precious in our sight, and we still love him or her. 

The answer to our questions of what to do if we’re forgetful or feel forgotten is the same: we go to that person with the words of verse 4: “you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” Why? Because those words state firmly and fully that we are still committed to the relationship, despite the history that’s built up. We still want relationship with that person, regardless of what’s come over the years. 

And that can be quite a bit of build-up. Think of a relationship right now where you have bitterness and resentment. Think of someone close to you with whom you are angry. Years of that, with neither person acting to change things, creates a build-up of bitterness and resentment that, like in the song, is like rain that keeps falling down. It can seem like there’s no fixing it because the downpour is just too overwhelming.

But here, we have the words that can begin the journey to reconciliation, restoration, and wholeness in these vital relationships where bitterness and resentment have built up. We go to the person and say, “you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” There’s no guarantee of receptivity; the person might yet reject you or the conversation could be quite uncomfortable. But there’s no possibility of healing and wholeness in the relationship unless we are bold enough to take the first step. 

And the first step is to tell the person we’re still committed; we haven’t forgotten or we forgive them for being forgetful. We go to the person with the words of verse four, “you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you.” 

I wonder, what relationships in your life need those words? Where do you feel forgotten? Or where have you been forgetful? 

Who sings, “don’t you forget about me?” about you. About whom are you singing, “Don’t you forget about me?” 

Go to that person and let them know you’re still committed, still wanting relationship. Tell them you still love them. 

Take the first step, just as we see God do here. Begin the path toward healing and wholeness today.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Amen.

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