Clergy Corner: Remembering to forget certain memories is a good policy

File Photo of Susan Beckett
Susan Beckett, Dwelling Place Church.

■ Susan Beckett / Contributed

Memories schmemories! Memories are made up to be so much more than they are oftentimes! Elvis Presley sang that memories are “pressed between the pages of our minds,” while Bob Hope made famous the phrase, “Thanks for the memories” to generations of listeners.
Memories are “recorded on our hearts” and “kept for eternity.” But really, I think we all have memories that positively need to be deleted. Not all memories are “sweetened through the ages just like wine!”
Most of us have some memories that we are better off without; things we remember that make us stumble through parts of our life. How often do we deal with memories that impede or even halt our progress in life, making success difficult at best?
It may surprise many to learn that the Bible has a lot to say about remembering. Isaiah 43:18-19 gives this advice: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
A new thing! Wow! Who wouldn’t want a new thing? Something new and better for their life? But notice that before the new thing can happen, we have to let go of some of our past remembrances and hurts. God constantly wants to do a new work in our lives and move us forward – past those things that hinder us.
Failing to “un-remember” the past can strain even the best of relationships. There’s a humorous story told about a man having a conversation with a friend who has just had an argument with his wife. “I just hate arguing with her,” he said. “Every time we have an argument she gets historical.” His friend corrected him, “You mean hysterical.” “No,” the man insisted. “I mean historical. Every time we fight she drags up everything from the past.” Ah— ‘sweet’ memories! And we all do it.
The Apostle Paul shared part of his life vision with us in Phillipians 3:13 when he said, “Brethren, 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…”
There it is again — forgetting those past memories (hurts, pains, etc.) so you can move forward to the new things that God has for you. Someone may have hurt you decades ago but when you remember it over and over you are actually re-seeding that event — that old hurt may just as well have happened yesterday. A wise Irish blessing says, “May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten.”
A friend of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, once reminded her of a cruel thing that had been done to her years before. But Miss Barton didn’t seem to recall it. “Don’t you remember it?” her friend asked. “No,” came the reply, “I distinctly remember forgetting it.”
I want to live my own life that way. Keeping “short accounts” with my friends and family keeps life free of hauling heavy millstones of past, painful memories around day after day. I see so many people who live life saddled and burdened down with past hurts — it’s a tough way to travel.
I think this topic can best be summed up with this discerning quote: “The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest, but, the first to forget…is the happiest.”

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