Memory

I recently had the opportunity to be a part of a seminar that a former pastor led on preaching.  Not quite to the level of the theatrical, the leader of the seminar was definitely very polished in his presentations.  (Maybe more polished than I would typically think could allow authenticity to bleed through.)  His shtick was that he MEMORIZED entire passages of the Bible.  So–that day during the multiple sessions of his preaching seminar–he probably parroted from memory nearly 100 verses from varying passages of the Bible.  It was pretty impressive.  His suggestion was that pastors should do the same thing on Sundays.  (Now, take into account that he is an itinerate speaker–so he may only have to hold to memory the same 5 passages he recycles at each different venue in which he speaks.)   After attending this seminar with a friend, I wondered to myself, do I have the MEMORY POWER to do something like that?

If you are one of the growing number of millions of people on the social-networking site, Facebook, you have probably been inundated recently with a couple of different invitations to be a part of MEMORY-BUILDING exercises with others.  The most famous that has cycled through Facebook is a thing called “25 Random Things.”  One site describes it like this:  “It’s not quite a chain letter, not quite an internet fad, somewhere between friend secrets and public therapy.”  Another popular thing to do on Facebook is to digitally invite friends to a thing called “Memories.”  There, everyone will cooperatively share memories they’ve had as a group or with a friend (back in the day).  Essentially, both exercises allow people to cycle shared experiences and to preserve the MEMORY.  (And maybe even build a little legend out of the stuff they are remembering.)  This is just a group way of using LANGUAGE to remember…something individuals have done for a long time–writing in their diaries or journaling.

Of course, throughout human history, ART has also been a way of making memories come back to life.  From cave painting to web-based digital pic uploads, people for millennia have tried to preserve experiences by capturing still-shot moments that “tell a thousand words.”  Video and home movies are a more recent phenomenon that fall into the VISUAL memory-capturing category.

Growing up, I recall someone telling me that if I had something I wanted to commit to memory, if I would say it loud…and then repeat that same thing 3 or 4 days later, it would be permanently stored in my long-term memory.  (I don’t know if it’s true or not, because I can’t remember anything that I have since forgotten when I was trying to employ this memory-building exercise.)

People use pneumonic tricks, drawing, pictures, recordings, and a million other techniques to try and PRESERVE THEIR MEMORY.  The place where we humans store our memories is in the frontal lobe.  But, because OUR LOBES DON’T WORK SO HOT SOMETIMES, we keep our memories in many other places like the ones listed.  But the best way to preserve a memory is not through digital imagery or in a diary or behind plastic in a photo album. 

Memory is best preserved among many people.  If you really think about it, you’ll realize that memory isn’t about the past.  (The point of life isn’t to preserve the past, but, instead, to make human life today and tomorrow richer, fuller, and happier.)  Memory is actually A COLLECTIVE RELATIONSHIP.   It’s not a memory if there isn’t someone else involved.  And while we all may have private life-changing moments while we’re in the mountains, at the ocean, standing alone in the middle of a beautiful but empty meadow, reading a life-transforming book, listening to the powerful lyrics and melody of a song, or one a trillion different private experiences, THAT’S NOT TO SAY THAT IT IS SOMETHING ONLY SHARED BY ONE.  Everything we experience is A SHARED EXPERIENCE OF AT LEAST TWO. 

Our private memories are something we share with God, too.  (Or, probably better said, something that HE SHARES WITH US.)  And from there, every memory worth remembering feathers out to as many people as we are blessed to have in the many moments of our lives. 

Did you know that OUR SPIRITUALITY is based on memory, too.  In the memory portfolio of the Holy Scriptures, one of the framed passages we hang on the walls of the front room of our heart is a simple phrase used by Jesus.  While sharing the symbols of His sacrifice, Christ offered His followers a piece of broken bread and a cup of wine…and uttered those famous words:  “Do this in REMEMBRANCE of Me” (Luke 22:19–niv). 

Perhaps we don’t think much about it, but there is a reason that Jesus first taught us how to REMEMBER HIM by being banded together with others.  There is also a reason that the apostles directed that this be a collective experience of Christ’s followers and not something we administer to ourselves in our own private time.  It’s almost as if to say THE ONLY WAY WE TRULY REMEMBER JESUS IS TO LET OUR COLLECTIVE EXPERIENCE OF HIM ALTER THE COURSE OF OUR FUTURE TOGETHER

Keeping track of our memories with God can become fuzzy when we are trying to be a one-man or one-woman hard drive of personal memory.  Others help us keep track of the total truth, put us in the context of that memory, and remind us how important that experience is to our future.  Consider for a moment how lifeless it would be if all we had in our possession was a photo album of pictures of just us.  4×6’s and 8×10’s and those tiny wallets pics we got in school…of just us.  No one else.  No one to share them with.  No one to tell us how completely nerdy our hair was.  No one to remind us how beautiful we are today.  Just us.  Where would be the memory in that?

So, I’m not sure if the question for you today is:  WHAT are you remembering?  Or, WHO are you remembering?  Maybe it’s WITH WHOM are you remembering?  And in all those questions is embedded this one ultimate question:  IS IT ALTERING THE COURSE OF YOUR FUTURE WITH HOPE?

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One thought on “Memory

  1. As human beings get older, one of the inevitabilities of life is that the memory starts to fade. However, the Lord God, although He is ageless, infinite, and eternal, without beginning or end, has no trouble remembering.

    We would do well to keep this in mind when we pray. There are two people in Scripture who had very little in common aside from the fact that they both called upon the Lord to remember them in their time of trouble. These are: (1) Hannah, the eventual mother of the prophet Samuel; and (2) one of the thieves who was crucified next to Christ Jesus.

    This was Hannah’s prayer: “And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.” (I Samuel 1:11)

    This was the dying thief’s prayer: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.” (Luke 23:42)

    Both of these prayers acknowledged the power of God to deliver. They both acknowledged the supplicant’s submission, and God’s deity, calling Him Lord. They both were made in desperate circumstances. Both called upon the Lord to remember. And both prayers were answered.

    It is easier for some to remember the Lord in times of great distress, for then they are forced to see Him as their only hope. It is easier for others to remember the Lord when things are going well, and to rely on their own faculties when things turn dire. The former situation is a problem of ingratitude, and the latter is a problem of faithlessness. Thankfully, His remembrance of His children is not as variable as our remembrance of Him. Perhaps the solution is to resolve to emulate Hannah, and repay the Lord’s remembrance of us by dedicating to His service the gifts He gives us, and to imitate the thief on the cross by setting our sights on God’s kingdom, and not our own.

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