You’re gathered with friends and someone says, “Remember when…” and recalls an event or occasion years ago. If you have a great memory you may respond, “Of course I do, Billy and Marge were there in crazy costumes….” and off you gallop down Memory Lane. Others of us with powers of recall challenges shrug blankly, “Can’t say I do remember that, you sure I was present?”
The human mind is a remarkable mechanism that sets up apart not only for our capacity to reason, to have a conscience, and to be resourceful and creative at a complex and sophisticated level, but also for our faculty of memory.
How we interpret what we remember informs our identity, our moods, our relationships, and our peace of mind.
We can’t help remembering. Some of us love to reminisce and others hate to look back. Some see only pain in the past while others are wistful and nostalgic in their recollection of ‘days gone by’. Some can’t stop talking about yesterday and others fall silent and take medication, drink or drugs to drown their sorrows.
There’s massive breakthrough when we learn that we can harness our memories rather than become a constant slave or victim of our pasts, particularly when they’re negative. It’s so easy to blame and have a constant pain in the neck from habitually looking back while trying to move forward. The not so funny thing is we can recall a past event and draw two entirely different conclusions.
The most obvious example is the Hebrew slaves scouting the Promised Land to see what lay ahead. Ten returned shouting about some juicy grapes and milk and honey, but even greater giants and hordes of enemies. The giants won. Two, Joshua and Caleb, returned confirming what the others said but were not intimidated. They saw an opportunity and encouraged their fellows to remember and trust God’s faithfulness.
The hard part is when we’re alone – at night. It’s so easy to be negative or become discouraged. At least I find it is. The negative has a habit of rising from the past like one of those giants and drowning out everything else. So what do we do?
Remember – that our information and perspective regarding the past is invariably distorted and possibly ill-informed – even when we were there. Remember the two walking on the Emmaus Road after the crucifixion. The resurrected Jesus joined them and they didn’t recognize Him. When asked what they were talking about they spluttered, “We had hoped..” as they recounted the brutality of past events and their conclusions. Nothing is ever over, there’s always another step on the way. As Graham Cooke is fond of saying, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Sometimes that’s funnier than at other times.
I stumbled into Psalm 77 the other day; it’s all about remembering. Read it.
The psalmist starts like I often do, crying out to God and then complaining about the past and wondering where God has been in all of the turmoil that I’m focusing on. His misery lasts nine verses until even he is weary of his negativity and pending depression. So he stops himself and turns in another direction.
He declares with great firmness and resolve, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
The whole mood of the psalm changes in those eleven verses where his memories of God’s faithfulness pour out and flow like a mighty river from his pen. Faith rises and the gloom of negativity lifts.
There’s a secret here to encourage us in our remembering. Once we recognize that life is not fair, strife happens, and reasons and mystery as to ‘why?’ abound; we can decide how we’re going to process and recycle. By all means acknowledge the reality of struggle, but don’t get stuck there. Remember God’s faithfulness and know that life isn’t over and that He hasn’t changed. Our circumstances (positive or negative) have absolutely nothing to do with how much God loves us. He has no favorites, He promises to never leave us, and He is true and faithful.
Worship is a great way to remember God’s love and kindness, His faithfulness, and His majestic power. Start there, or wherever comes to mind. Pull on that thread and allow Him to encourage you when those memories get hijacked and threaten to overwhelm with lies and fear, regrets and blame. The only value negative memories have is to keep us humble and to provide material from which we can learn for a better future.
Which reminds me, God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. So when we’re ‘remembering, ask Him what He remembers about the event you’re recalling. He may show you truths you never saw before and everything will change.
What do you think – about?
Steffany Gretzinger – Sing My Way Back to You