If we choose the way of desire, our greatest enemy on the road ahead is not the Arrows, nor Satan, nor our false lovers. The most crippling thing that besets the pilgrim heart is simply forgetfulness, or more accurately, the failure to remember. You will forget; this isn’t the first book you’ve read in search of God. What do you remember from the others? If God has been so gracious as to touch you through our words, it will not have been the first time he has touched you. What have you done with all the other times? I have had enough encounters with God to provide a lifetime of conviction—why don’t I live more faithfully? Because I forget.
I am humbled by the story of the golden calf. These people, the Jews God has just delivered from Egypt, have seen an eyeful. First came the plagues; then the Passover; then the escape from Pharaoh’s armies and last-minute rescue straight through the Red Sea. After that came the manna: breakfast in bed, so to speak, every morning for months. They drank water from a rock. They heard and saw the fireworks at Mt. Sinai and shook in their sandals at the presence of God. I think it’s safe to say that this band of ransomed slaves had reasons to believe. Then their leader, Moses, disappears for forty days into the “consuming fire” that enveloped the top of the mountain, which they could see with their own eyes. While he’s up there, they blow the whole thing off for a wild bacchanalian party in honor of an idol made from their earrings. My first reaction is arrogant: How could they possibly be so stupid? How could they forget everything they’ve received straight from the hand of God? My second is a bit more honest: That’s me; I could do that; I forget all the time.