Monday, June 10, 2013

Memories . . . and Then There Are Memories

My sister, Ida, and me during our wild and crazy days!

A longtime friend, Jim Mathis, is a very accomplished photographer. I enjoy the craft, and think I’m fairly good at it, but Jim’s probably forgotten more about the art of photography than I’ll ever learn. So for me he’s the camera world's E.F. Hutton – when he speaks, I listen.

Recently he wrote about the problem with cherished photos from 30, 40 or 50 years ago. Many have become discolored or faded with the passage of time. Today, a service Jim offers through his photography shop is salvaging old photos. He says his restoration techniques can make the pictures last for hundreds of years. (I think he’s telling the truth, but don’t plan on being around to check the guarantee!)

What he’s doing, however, is more than preserving aging images. In essence, he’s assisting people in salvaging fading memories.

A few months ago I had several hundred old photos digitized. Reviewing them took me on a tour of Memory Lane: pictures of my mom, dad, sister and grandparents; my childhood home; long-departed pets; old cars; travels to picturesque settings like Europe, the Grand Canyon, Jamaica and Disney World; our grandkids not long after they were born.

My father explaining how my life was about
to change with a baby sister on the scene.
As I reflected on these images and experiences they represented, it occurred to me there are memories – and then there are memories. Some worth holding onto as long as we can; others we should discard as soon as possible.

With photos it’s easy. If it’s someone or something you want to remember, you keep the photo – even have it restored if necessary. Photos that carry bad memories? Those we can tear up or throw into the trash.

If only our cerebral memories worked the same way. The bad ones – hateful words directed our way, destructive relationships, painful losses, devastating failures – those tend to linger much longer than we’d like. If only they’d fade like old photographs.

Maybe that’s why the advice of the Bible is to remember the good, but to forget the bad. Put the negative stuff in the rearview mirror – and don’t look back.

The apostle Paul wrote about this. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). He had a lot to forget – days he proudly persecuted Christians before he became a follower of Jesus himself.

In essence he was saying, “I could dwell on my vengeful, self-righteous past. But I can’t change that. God has forgiven me and for the rest of my life, my goal is to do what He asks of me.”

We all have things in our past we wish we could undo – if only God would grant us a “do-over.” But that’s not possible. And they haven’t invented time machines, at least not yet, to enable us to revisit the past and correct what we did wrong. So we, too, need to be forgetting what is behind.

But the Bible doesn’t tell us to forget everything. We can learn from failures to make course corrections. We can delight in happy memories that have helped make us what we are today. And as we seek to grow in our faith, we can – and should – remember what God has done for us, and for others.

The ancient Israelites often were commanded to do one thing in considering their heritage and what God had done for them: Remember. The 11th chapter in the book of Hebrews, sometimes called the “hall of faith,” is a series of remembrances about the Old Testament patriarchs.

Jesus’ very last words to His followers urged them to remember – and anticipate. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He also promised, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

So the lesson is this: Baggage from your past, memories dragging you down or acting like chains that keep you from moving forward, bury them in your “forgetter.” But memories of special moments, along with experiences that have helped to shape you into who you are and who you’re becoming, never let those fade. Restore them if necessary. And revisit them often.

No comments: