Pastor column: Remembering and forgetting
Some of my earliest memories of childhood are of times spent with my grandfather. One of the fondest memories was sitting in rocking chairs on his front porch. Sometimes we'd speak, but often we would just rock in silence, enjoying each other's company.
I had tremendous love and admiration for my grandfather, and it's amazing to me how these memories can still bring a smile and warm feelings all these years later. It is a reminder that memories can be some of the greatest blessings of our lives.
In contrast, one of my most troubling memories comes from somewhere around the age of 10 or 11. A neighborhood bully by the name of Francis, who was three years older than me, seemed hell bent on beating the tar out of me. I didn't know him, and I didn't know why, but he and his buddies spent the school year chasing me home from school most days of the week. They never caught me, but I was terrorized by the fear that sooner or later they would.
For years, just the thought of these kids was enough to make my blood boil and could bring me to cuss! I can remember projecting my disdain for Francis on every member of his family, the school that he attended, as well as his ethnic group, (even though I didn't know any of them!) It's amazing how a memory like this could sour, taint and poison me in such a significant way for a number of years.
The human mind and memory is an amazing thing! It has the power to inspire us, uplift us and encourage us, but also the power to damage us, drag us down, and enslave us. For this very reason, I have come to believe one of the greatest challenges of life is learning what to remember and what to forget. Otherwise, the blessing of a good memory can become an awful burden and a liability.
Can we learn to hold tight to those positive memories that bring incredible joy, affection and satisfaction? Those people, places and events that enliven us and continue to offer us strength, hope, joy and courage? And can we also learn to release those memories that bring fear, hurt, guilt and regret? Those ghosts that paralyze us and keep us prisoners in the past, preventing us from moving ahead in life. These are the challenges of our lives!
I believe the human memory was given as a good gift from our Creator and meant to help us, not hurt us. This great God has shown us, by his own example, that the good done to us, and by us, is meant to be remembered (Psalm 112:6) and the evil done to us, and by us, is meant to be forgotten and forgiven (Jeremiah 31:34.) We can choose to ignore this wisdom, but hanging on to the past only hurts us and no one else!
I know that some of these bitter memories are not easy to forgive and forget! Yet, this is where the power of God, and the power of prayer come in. It may take us years to forgive and forget, but little by little, God's grace, mercy and love can shape us into new people. I have learned this from personal experience! (And if it's true for me, it can be true for you!)
What are those things, people and places that you would be wise and blessed to remember today? And what are those things you would be better forgetting today? God be with each of us as we decide what to remember and what to forget in life!