“I remember when…” These words are usually said with pleasure. Occasionally they may be uttered with pain. Memory, the ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences, is a fundamental component of human personality.
Most of us take memory for granted. But when we do think about it, we realize this ability to remember is a great gift as well as a great mystery. Memories, the pleasurable ones and the painful ones, give color and content to our life. Without memory life would be flat, one-dimensional, without meaning. Memory allows us to know where we have been and, therefore, know what to anticipate in the future. It is through memory that we learn and grow—for by memory we are able to learn from experience. By means of memory we can move from one experience to another forming these memories into a matrix of increasingly complex connections. This is the heart of learning. It is hard to imagine what life would be like if we woke up each day without any knowledge of the day before or the day before that.
Psychologists tell us that there are three main stages to memory: we first must see, feel, hear, or sense something. These experiences of facts and events are registered in the neural circuits of our brain. Memory occurs when these stored bits of information are recalled into our consciousness.
Of course, we do not remember everything we experience. One of the mysteries of memory is how and why the brain selects only certain things to remember. Just because we hear, feel, or see something we will not necessarily remember it. We do seem to remember the best things that have a great impact on us, emotionally or physically, for whatever reason. That is why our family experiences leaved such deep tracks in our memory.
Because of the pivotal role memory plays in human personality the Bible repeatedly challenges us to remember. In fact, a look at the Biblical Concordance reveals over 250 references to remember, memory, or remembrance.
God wants us to grow. He wants us to become—to be more than we are. We trace out our life through the choices we make. As we recall those choices and learn from the consequences of those choices we grow—we grow intellectually, socially, and spiritually by remembering what has gone before. Because of the gift of memory, we can be products of our past but we are not prisoners of that past.
the blessings God has given us,
those moments we have felt God’s presence,
those times when God has challenged us,
those times when our families share life together.
Yes, we can say, “I remember when,” with joy for we know to remember is a great gift. As we remember, we are experiencing our humanity in the deepest way.
The Good News tells us that we are products of our past. But we are not prisoners of that past. We do not have to be fenced in by our failures, our mistakes, our disappointments, our wrong turns, or right roads not taken. The Good News opens the door to growth, to change. We can become more than we are through the acceptance and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Christian life is dynamic. Ever moving. The road for the Christian is always under construction.
Paul sums up these challenges to us in Philippians 3:13-14: 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 had called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. “
In light of these challenges to grow, there is something very Christian about the opportunity we have at the beginning of a New Year to re-evaluate our life and set our sights on new goals. We are not locked into what we have been in the past. Indeed, we are challenged to grow, to become, to overcome as we look forward with hope and joy.
While not for everyone, New Year’s Resolutions can be a positive expression of our willingness to leave the confining prison cell of the past and move to the challenge found in the open country of new beginnings. Jesus is out there watching, waiting.
I have been encouraged by these words of Norman Vincent Peale: “As we begin the new year, there is one resolution I can heartily recommend. That is to practice the art of forgetting. Forget those things that are behind, get them off your mind. If you have sinned or made mistakes, get forgiven and learn from your errors. No matter what you have done, forgive yourself as God forgive you, then forget it.” (Newspaper article by Reverend Peale in December, 1963)
Let’s make our resolutions with joy and anticipation knowing that we are not prisoners but free children of God.