Tempting, isn’t it? If we could scrub out bad memories the way we might change a misspelled word? If we could delete mistakes the way we might remove an extra comma?
I don’t know that I would want to erase my memories. Even experiences that are difficult have taught me how find joy through suffering and to appreciate the absence of suffering to appreciate greater joy.
There are some experiences I am careful about relaying. I might express my pain, but I don’t desire to cause more pain for others. So, I try to see the joy. I try to express that emotion with the not-so-good memories.
But, I’ve seen the damage of trying to erase memories. When we forget to keep people. When we ignore them. When we wish they didn’t exist. It’s damaging to others and to ourselves.
Maybe that’s why Jesus urged us to love our enemies. Maybe it was to remind us that He loves us in spite of what we do and do not do for Him. Maybe it is to remind us what we did to Him. More importantly, it probably ought to remind us what He did for us.
If we attempt to erase or delete memories from our lives, we risk sending that which we treasure to the trash. Certainly, we could argue we don’t need certain reminders about those who have hurt us. I agree we need to learn how to set aside the pain and move on. But, if we throw out the wrong thing–especially if we cast aside people–we may realize a harder truth. Someday we may need the people we believed to be against us. Someday we may discover they–perhaps to a greater extent–require us.
Someday we may actually be able to look at what they did and didn’t do and be grateful.
Consider Noah who built a boat for a flood before humanity had ever seen a drop of rain. Consider Joseph who could have sent his brothers away without food and destroyed the tribe of Israel during a worldwide famine. Consider Jesus who could walk on water and calm the storm with a word but who poured out blood and water as the crowd mocked and jeered at Him while He hung on the cross. Consider that God could have erased us from existence but chose to redeem us instead through His own suffering so that we could see a glimpse of joy on earth before the full-reveal of heaven.
We tend to forget that part of the story. As we surge through and endure pain, wishing to discard the people who caused it, we tend to forget that we wouldn’t be where we are and who we are without them.
We tend to forget, that for as long as we live here together, we are in the same boat. How we survive our flood–the overwhelming spread of a world-wide pandemic, the raging storm against racism and discrimination, the uncertainty of tomorrow when today’s forecast is anything but predictable–depends on our obedience to build the boat in the first place. How we survive our famine is a direct result of forgiving those who have betrayed us, refraining from destroying them, and giving them a grain of grace they do not deserve. How we survive our divine purposes is how we accept the sacrifices we must make, the crosses we must bear, and the mockery of those who may not ever get what we are willing to do for them. How we survive our suffering is how we receive our joy.
Let’s not, in our haste to throw out what we think is a waste, trash that.
It is hard to make the boat goes as fast as you want to. The enemy of course, is the resistance of the water, as you have to displace the amount of water equal to the weight of men and equipment, but that very water is what supports you and that very enemy is your friend. So is life: the very problems you must overcome also support you and make you stronger in overcoming them.George Yeoman Pollock, from The Boys in the Boat
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