My memory has been failing me ever since I can remember. That being said, the fact my memory has been failing me could mean that my memory of my memory could also be failing me. If my memory of my memory is failing me, then my memory of my memory failing me could actually be a failed memory meaning my memory isn’t failing me. Of course if my memory of my memory is failing me when I incorrectly remember that my memory is failing me, then my memory is failing me about my memory failing me even though my memory wasn’t failing me. Wow! I’m so confused by this opening paragraph that I am having trouble remembering what I was writing about. Don’t give up on reading. If my failing memory about my failing memory is actually a failed memory, then I will be able to remember what I am writing about!
Memories can fail us.
I am not trying to be negative. I am not trying to suggest we don’t look back. My goal is to remind us that every memory is incomplete. We delete what we don’t want to remember or exaggerate what we do remember. For some, their mind is stuck in a loop of past bliss. Others find they are replaying their real life horror film. The rest are somewhere in between. Regardless of where you fit in, memories are edited versions of reality that can serve or enslave us.
Memories can empower us.
Allowing our minds to take a trip down memory lane can bring a glimmer of hope into a difficult time or a dose of reality into everyday decisions. Sometimes an escape to happier times reminds us that not all in life is bad. Other times the sudden shock of a memory from a painful time reminds us to take action to avoid the same outcome.
Memories can trap us.
Allowing our minds to live on memory lane can leave us craving or mourning the past. The past is a destination we cannot return to outside of our memories. We are powerless to truly escape or positively alter the present by going back in time.
Memories can be idols.
In our collective of Christ followers and in our lives as Christ followers, memories of what once was can define who God is in our lives and churches. “Remember when…” becomes the rally cry for change. What should be a celebration of God’s faithfulness that inspires us to trust Him in new things becomes a lament that traps us. Sometimes we try to recreate what was. Other times we try to ignore what is. Almost always our memory fails us because what we remember is not complete. Our memories are edited versions of reality that enslave us to an unattainable fairytale which becomes a god unto itself.
Memories can be empty.
My job as a transitional pastor puts me in the middle of memories. There is no transition without looking back. The collective of Christ followers must address the past. Healing and forgiveness, celebration and remembrance are all part of the process. At one time I would hear long time attendees tell of a different era when their collective of Christ followers saw God move and people come to faith in Christ before things went wrong. Now I hear long time attendees tell of a different era defined as before things went wrong. There are no stories of a move of God or a desire to see Him move again. The past for both can be an idol, a place they want to return to but for one the past is representative of a time when they saw the power of God, for the other the past is only representative of a better time.
Memories point out what we need in the future.
We need a fresh move of God. I fear that our memories have defined God. For some memories of who He was with no sense of who He still is, stagnate their church. More disturbing is a group of churches created by church planting movements rather than a move or direct call of God. These churches exist because that’s what church panting organizations do, plant churches. For this group their memories are edited versions of the reality of who God is. It’s not that they have edited out the powerful acts and calling of God but that experience or the lack there of has created an edited version for them. Their memories serve to enslave them to a process not power, to a mandate not miracles and to a move of man not a move of God.
Oh how we need to create memories of a powerful God!
They tell of the power of your awesome works and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:6-8 (NIV)
My pastor told me recently that we could not go back to when I was growing up to worship the same way I did then. I was simply arguing that the new hymnal had so many hymns wrong in it. That got my old memories starting to flow. When I was young, we had a prayer meeting on Wednesday. Old men, 60s through 80s, would show up on Wednesday but not on Sunday. It finally dawned on me that they only came on Wednesday night because we sang from the old hymnal, and the old guys could belt out a tune, instead of those fancy new hymns that had everything wrong in them in the new hymnal – which was my argument with the pastor. I suddenly realized that I had become one of those OLD GUYS!!!!. Turning 70 this month had nothing to do with it. Disliking the new hymnal – everything to do with it.
Dave ~ I feel your pain.
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