DECONSTRUCTING PAINFUL MEMORIES

 

A smell, a song, a face, or a place can all conjure up memories in our minds.  Memory is a wonderful gift.  As you grow older and begin to lose some of the agility of your mind, you realize what an incredible blessing memories are.

Not all of our reminiscences are pleasant.  In fact, truth be told, there are some memories we wish we could erase from our minds.  Harsh brutal words, unkind acts, injustices, verbal abuse, and physical abuse are memories we would happily wash from our brain. 

So how do we handle our hurtful memories?  They keep popping up in our minds, we have flashbacks and the very circumstances we do not want to recollect seem to be in the forefront of our minds. 

There are a number of things we can do with our painful memories:

  1. We can push them to the side and never confront them in any way. 
  2. We can bury them in our psyche and hope that they will not push their way to the surface.
  3. We can courageously face our memories and deal with them.

Yes, I like you would love to scrub some of the hurtful memories, the untruthful things said about me, the horrible injustices done in the name of Christ from my brain, but that would not help me or anyone else.  You see, you may think your memories only affect you.  However, your memories will also impact those around you whether you want them to or not. 

 Here are a few excerpts from a passage in my book Wild Hope. 

Sometimes life is tough. In his book The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World, Theologian Miroslav Volf coined the term “remembering rightly.” In my view (and much of my thinking here is influenced by Volf), the ability to remember is a gift; the capacity to remember rightly is a discipline.

Over time our memories can distort events of the past and the perpetrators of our injustice can loom larger and more terrible than they actually were. Careful, deliberate, and honest reflection of past realities helps us to remember rightly, reminding us of our own personal flaws while at the same time seeking to look into the life of the perpetrator and understand their story and what caused them to do the things they did.. This type of remembering is helpful for the soul because in reflecting on our own humanity and frailty we can see others in a whole new light.

Introspection can be helpful when we use it as a tool to become better people. As we look inside and acknowledge those areas of our lives that need to change, we can then equip ourselves to be more useful in the future. We would never appreciate the good times if we had never experienced difficulties. Sometimes it is the dark and difficult times that shape us the most. The sunshine of today is more glorious in the light of the dismal overcast day that just passed.

We are all imperfect humans, some more imperfect than others. The one lesson we must take from our pain is that we should do everything in our power to avoid causing others pain. If we do not learn this important lesson, our suffering is in vain. I have no regrets about this time in our ministry and I quickly forgave anyone who hurt us. I would never change my calling for any other vocation, even though it has not been without its challenges.

As I have lifted the veil and peered down the corridor of God’s goodness, my eyes have welled up with tears and my heart has filled with gratitude. Our lives have been full of color in every season, and as the corner of the curtain of our youth turned, it only revealed a new and different, but equally exhilarating, blaze of color—the color of wild hope.

Reflecting over that period of our lives, I realize that no experience was wasted. I love the good and happy stories that make me feel all fuzzy and aglow, but I am also thankful for the valuable faith lessons I learned in the early days of our ministry. Somehow the not so good stories have also been an important and integral part of the puzzle of our lives.

It was in part those difficult and stretching times that made Paul and me the people we are today. Bitterness and anger have never been options. We have always sought to discipline our hearts from allowing the awful root of resentment to penetrate our souls. And I really do mean intentional discipline. When one of us has been tempted to say something unkind about someone that wronged us, the other one has quickly stepped in to halt that conversation from going further. We are both intent on God using us in His world, and we never want bitterness or any other negative emotion to hinder our effectiveness.

If you are hurting, I urge you to give that hurt to Jesus and allow Him to replace it with hope. Of course, that does not justify the harm that has been done to you, but what it does do is  free you as a person so that the problem is no longer yours. Jesus will avenge you in His time. That does not mean that you deliberately seek revenge; it means that you trust your heavenly Father to do what is right and good for the other.

As I let go of my hurt and pain, Jesus replaced it with a newfound hope that would see me through the next season of my life. I can only describe it as wild hope!

Conclusion:  I felt led to share this piece from my book with someone today.  Perhaps you need to lift the curtain and peer down the passage to see God's goodness.  Give your pain to Jesus and allow Him to love and nurture you. My prayer is that you will have eyes to see the goodness of God even in the midst of painful memories,

 

I am and always will be,

recklessly abandoned, ruthlessly committed and in relentless pursuit of Jesus

Carol