My memory has failed me on more than one occasion and I am embarrassed to admit that it happens far too frequently these days. I have left messages for someone else on my own voicemail, bought a movie ticket for a show I watched the week before, and turned on the window fan without opening up the window. While these are funny everyday incidents, there are those whose quality of life is taken from them as they struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Memories help to give life meaning and value.
Remembering is not only a good and practical thing to do, it is also a scriptural practice. The Psalms are filled with proclamations of the Lord’s good work throughout the generations of which Psalm 77 is a prime example. As significant God-experiences occurred to those in the Old Testament, rock piles were often built as memorials of remembrance. The Jewish Passover meal is a time of remembering Israel’s flight from Egyptian bondage. Even in our contemporary practice of Christian communion we recall the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Remembering can be a healthy and positive experience.
There are three things about remembering worth noting: 1) memories must be created, 2) memories often have to be redeemed, and 3) memories should be cherished.
Memories are created through intentionality, togetherness, and vulnerability. As we live in community with one another we learn to trust, love, forgive, and share. Community becomes the fertile environment for growth, learning, and loving. I have no great memories of sitting alone on the couch doing nothing. My memories involve interacting with others, experiencing life with people I care about, and engaging in the community of faith. As I rub shoulders with others I create wonderful memories.
Not all memories are positive, for some are excruciatingly painful, and rubbing shoulders with others can create hurt. Some have experienced the sting of divorce, death of a loved one, addiction, disillusionment and a whole host of other negative memories. How do we rid ourselves of such toxicity? We certainly can’t alter the experience, especially after the fact, but we can alter our perspective of such memories by redeeming them. Pain is a pathway to God, for it has a way of stripping away the religious fluff in our lives and causes us to question, focus, and see things differently. It can lead to transformation and new perspectives. As Jesus notes, unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground and dies, it cannot produce new life. That is the language of transformation. Redeeming painful memories involves reclaiming the pain and reshaping it into a memory of transformation.
Finally, positive memories can be cherished as they bring a smile to our heart. Some journal as a way of remembering while others go for long walks. One woman I know sits on a circular rug and plays her native flute before the Lord as an act of remembrance and worship. The issue isn’t how you choose to remember, but that you remember, for remembering has a way of bringing us joy and encouraging us to continue on during the difficult times. Find your own way of remembering and cherish the ways you have experienced the goodness of God.
As you interact with others on life’s journey may you be a positive memory to them. –TSW Copyright © T. S. Wise, 2019