When I was a child, there was a place we used to go in eastern Alabama kind of in the foothills. We would shout and listen to the echo come back off the opposite hill. I can remember being a 4 year old kid just loving to hear this amazing sound wave phenomenon. The sound of my voice would echo back at me and I would just giggle until I could not stand it. That little memory came to me this morning as I was standing on my balcony. I wasn’t shouting and listening to my echo like a child, I was actually thinking about things. I spend way too much time thinking actually. Today however I was inside my own memories. I could hear people saying things to me, pronouncing their feelings and what not. It was one of those lost in your own space moments. I cannot for the life of me remember at this moment what I was thinking about or who I was hearing in my head; just that it was one of those things that got to me. This means that it was probably a recent memory, and something that probably got me just a bit upset. It happens to you when you are left alone with your own thoughts for any length of time. The memories run through your mind like a movie behind your eyes. Some of them make you smile; some cut you straight to the core. This one cut me. Like I said I don’t remember what it was exactly. I have had many very hard conversations lately. Conversations in which my heart was laid bare before another person and in which I was very vulnerable. It is not something that I wanted to do, but in order to heal; sometimes you have to face your illness head on. If your heart has been the sick part of you, then there has to be a lot of laying that heart bare in the search for forgiveness and healing, so knowing that I am sure that it was something that was said in honesty. Sometimes honesty hurts. Sometimes the memory of someone’s honesty hurts very badly.
Years ago my mom and I took a trip to Nebraska to see my uncle. While in Omaha we went to the zoo. I’m a big kid, I love the zoo. We went to the tiger exhibit and there was a tiger walking towards the glass window. I was amazed and excited and I turned around to get my family’s attention. When I turned back around this tiger was right in my face and actually bumped its nose on the glass. Suddenly being face to face with a predator that large, whose species has a very well documented history of eating your species is quite a frightening thing. It made me almost fall over. It didn’t matter in that moment that there was about eight inches of bullet proof glass between this cat and my face. So here is the turn you have come to expect by now. Memories can do the same thing to us.
Memories are echoes from our past. They are things that jump up in our mind and remind us of what has happened. In moments following crisis they jump into your mind many times throughout the day. There are moments when I remember these great and awesome times together. Those memories become flooded with regret and heart break almost instantly, at least they used to. I have moments where I remember fights and arguments and hurts and all kinds of terrible things. Those moments too become filled with regret and guilt. It is entirely human for those things to occur. You cannot simply erase your memories. There are diseases and injuries that do that, and that is usually a painful experience in itself. As human beings we rely on our memories to form us and make us who we are. Many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s suffer also from personality disorders because they simply do not have a basis for who they are supposed to be. Without our past how are we supposed to know how to react or how to live? These are deep questions, more on that in a minute.
I learned something about memories this morning. In my situation I am starting to realize that memories are full of things that we want to see. Many times they are selfish. Sure we can remember the good things, and even when we want to the bad things. Memory, whether we admit it or not, is selective. We have the ability to choose what we remember. Sometimes we choose to remember the things that have hurt us. If you doubt me just try controlling your subconscious mind after your life has been turned upside down. On the opposite end of that spectrum we choose to block out bad memories all together. The human brain is an immensely complex organ. I’m not a doctor so I cannot even begin to describe the sort of complexity that exists inside your head. I also cannot speak for someone who has not dealt with the memories that have been blocked out. That kind of psychiatric work is best left to the professionals.
However I have realized this, my memories cannot hurt me. Memories are things that have already happened. They don’t jump out of your ears and happen all over again. They are paths that have already been walked. I have memories of being hurt physically, but I have never had a memory jump out and break my hand. Likewise memories of heart break cannot be allowed the same power. If your hart has already been broken, why would you let a thought do it to you all over again? Why would you want your own brain to have the power to undo the work that God has done inside you? True, memories are good, they help you to not make the same idiotic mistakes again. Think about a time when you got hurt physically doing something. In most brains the memory of that keeps you from doing that again without some adjustments. Likewise memories of things that hurt you emotionally or mentally should keep you from doing the same things. The fact I want to bring to your attention is this.
You are not the sum of the echoes in your mind. My mistakes do not make up who I am, or who I will become. It is foolish to think that you have that much control over things. God is in fact the sum of who you are and who you will become. No, you’re not going to become God, don’t be silly. What God wills for your life is what I am talking about. Sure you can go out and try to be exactly who you want to be and do what you want to do. You can live your own will, I know, I did it, it’s not a pretty thing, and success in such a life is a lie. Now back to what I was saying about deep and heavy things.
Our identity has been formed by the things that have happened in our life. I think we can all agree that who we are is made up of how we have lived and what has occurred in the choices that we have made. There has been a lot of work that went into your life. Here is the crisis of your identity. There is a difference in who you are and who you are supposed to be. Humanity was never created to be apart from its creator. However choices were made long before we took our first breath that separated us from God. There is a literal divide between us. Plus, we have been born with a freedom of will. We get to choose whether or not we will accept God, through Christ, or not. In that choice God has a new identity for us. Think about this for a second. Can you see what will happen to you tomorrow? No you cannot. You can make plans, but they may change due to unforeseen things. God on the other hand already knows. He knows what will happen if you go right or left, or straight or in reverse. In fact he has a plan. Now what does this have to do with memory? Memory is a past item. It is a historical record in your brain of what happened. Identity in Christ is about what is going to happen in the present.
You cannot live your life living in an echo. It is never the real thing, and it is never anything tangible that you can hold, and we know that sometimes memories can lie to us. The present life we are living, the present that I am experiencing is tangible. It is reality. Memories can only be allowed to affect us if they keep us from making a mistake. They cannot be allowed to steal the joy from the moment. They are not physical, and they cannot hurt you. Don’t listen to the echoes, send out a new sound and don’t wait for it to come back. If you’re confused about what I am saying think of it like this. If you stand in a football stadium and try to sing the National Anthem, you cannot listen to the echoes from the bleachers; they will mess up your timing and your pitch. You must concentrate on the moment. There it is, you must concentrate on the moment, not on the echo. In the end, memories are good things, but like pets they must be made to behave and know their place in our lives.