As we approach Memorial Day weekend, I was pondering the place of memories in a happy, balanced life. Memorial Day is of course, a day commemorating those that fell in our nation’s wars.
It began after the Civil War, which claimed more American lives than any other conflict in American history. Sobering to consider that more Americans were killed BY fellow-Americans than were killed by foreign adversaries. The remembrance of this day is very sad to most of us. I remember visiting the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C. IN 1993. The sight of those 58,320 names carved on that black granite is a an incredible sight.
The power of our memories to shape our current lives is enormous! Memories have the power to keep us bound in the past, or provide learnings for the future depending on how we utilize them. PTSD, which is a well-known affliction of combat veterans, among others, is unique in that it keeps the worst of memories alive in the consciousness of those that suffer from it. It is not just that something bad happened, but that bad thing keeps on happening in the mind of the person. I have personally observed the terrible effects of this on people I have known and loved. That is the most extreme example of the power of memory to afflict.
To a lesser degree, we all have experienced memories that keep haunting us, tormenting and trying to convince us that mistakes of our past are never going to let us go. So many people have a bad relationship with the past and the future; regret of the past and dread of the future! This chokes off the fullness of life God wants us to live. How about, learn from the past and anticipate the future?
Time travel is still a fictional concept, though there are those that contend it is theoretically possible. Whether it may one day come to reality, it is not yet available. If it was, who among us would not want to go back and correct that thoughtless word, that selfish or ill-advised act? But we cannot. What we can do, is what Paul subscribed to in Phil. 3:13-14; “I count not myself to have apprehended: but this ONE thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…”. The Greek word for forgetting is very interesting here. It does not mean a loss of memory, but rather a neglect of memory. In other words, the memory is there, but we choose to neglect it thereby robbing it of power over us. It is similar to a plant that we neglect to water; it withers and dies. So do bad memories that we need to release. The positive element that comes to us is a wealth of experience of things to not do again. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” spoke Spanish philosopher George Santayana.
This Memorial Day, we remember the lives of precious men and women cut short in service to our country. We cherish their memories, while we hopefully learn to avoid the dreadful practice of war in the future. May all your memories be used to bless, teach and propel you to greater Christ-consciousness!