Memories are these mysteriously paradoxical things. At their best, they help us form the foundation of our lives. Acting like anchors, they secure us to people, places, our culture, our stories and our history. They give us a place to from which to launch when we are ready to spread our wings and explore…and a place to land when a season of life exhausts us, when we are hurt, and needing to rest. They create a filter through which we make future decisions, enabling us to recognize what we like, what is dangerous, what we hope to repeat or avoid. They have the potential to make us smile, reminding us of the joy we’ve experienced, of the people we love, of our most human moments when we touch something divine within us and feel the pleasure of our Maker. In the darkest night of the soul, they can remind us that the sun used to shine, that if we can just wait long enough, it will shine again, and that sometimes, there are treasures to be found in the darkness. No wonder God encourages His people to remember… (Ps. 103:2, Ps. 105:5) Our stories are powerful. Everyone should have a few snapshots of genuinely happy moments from their lives, if not stuck to their refrigerator door, then to their hearts, where they can encourage us when we need it most.
At their worst though…memories can be terrible tyrants, rubbing our noses in our failures, in our shame, in our disappointments and heartbreaks. Instead of an anchor, they act like a ball and chain, tying us to a past we would rather leave behind. They alter our perceptions of who we are and who God is…and their sometimes uncertain nature makes them a dangerous tool in our enemy’s hands. Destructive memories can follow and punish us with a ferocity that makes us wince internally and hide from others externally. Their wounds can be ingrained, like an ill-timed footprint in the wet cement of our hearts. It is there forever, and forever marring what might have otherwise been beautiful…what was intended by our Maker to be beautiful. In the darkest nights of the soul, these are the memories that taunt us, telling us that the sun will never shine again, and that the God who made the sun, who made us and who allowed our memory to happen, must not love us because of how unloveable it all makes us feel. No wonder God also encourages His people to forget… (Is. 43:18, Phil. 3:13) Our stories are indeed powerful. Everyone has memories like this, taped not to our refrigerator door for all to see, but hidden away in the most vulnerable, and most private places in our hearts.
In light of all this, I have a complicated relationship with my past. Alternately grateful and regretful. Recognizing the value of owning my past, but not letting it own me. Not wanting to leave it all behind, but not wanting to bring it all with me either. Knowing the lens I use to look at it changes its value.
Oh Jesus, may my dreams be more powerful than my memories!
May my life be anchored, not to what was, but to who You are, and to what You’ve promised will be.
May my life be energized by hope, by a future focus, and with the optimism of one who knows that You heal broken things, and that You resurrect dead things from the grave.
May my heart be open to the possibility that tomorrow can be better than today.
May the happiness I’ve been blessed with be a reminder that the joy I feel here is but a foretaste of what is to come.
May the sadness I’ve endured be transformed in Your hands… into a doorway that leads to knowing You more… into plowed ground in which my compassion for those in pain grows… into a prized story I treasure and get to share, because You met me in the middle of it and changed its ending.
May I find and chase after the dreams You’ve given me, that You created me to dream…and may I learn to build my life around them…not on the memories that would restrain me.
May the painful memories of my past… become things that have happened to me…not things that define me.
May I be more motivated to pursue what is before me than chased by what is behind me.
May I be willing to let some things from the past go in order to make room for what will come.
May I take You at Your word when You say I am a new creation, that the old has gone, and the new has come…and that the life sitting before me is a gift, is safe, and holds the potential for my deepest satisfaction.