Saturday, February 4, 2012
The session with my coffee cup this morning was quite an eye opener. The Bible study I was reading brought up the question of forgetting. That happens to be one subject that is close to my heart. In the process of growing among many others who have been damaged by loved ones, friends, family, or even themselves, I have discovered the importance of remembering in order to forget.
Most people deal with bad memories by trying to wipe them away somehow. They stuff them deep in their hearts and cover them with mind numbing chemicals or outrageous behavior or even withdrawal from society. Others wear them like badges of honor claiming that everyone owes them something for what they have been through.
My own conclusion about forgetting is that IT IS NOT THE SAME AS NOT REMEMBERING. No matter how hard we try to forget some things, we really do not have power in ourselves to rid ourselves of memories. As we age, some memories get pretty messed up and we find that some of them are even fictitious and never happened while others can remind us of things that are true from our past that we really have no recollection of. This makes for some pretty hilarious conversation between family members and with long time friends.
But here we are basically concerned with traumatic memories: The ones that cause our lives to take a turn that we never quite catch up to. Joseph had such memories. He even names his first son Manasseh “…because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” He has a wife, he has a job--an important job-- and now he has a son, a jewel in his crown. His life is beautiful….
I wonder, has he talked to anybody, anybody at all, about what happened to him? Has he really dealt with the pain? When his memories are brought back to him, will he find a chill running down his back? Will he have a “fight or flight” reaction? Or will he simply keep walking forward toward the goals God lays before him? Check Genesis 41 and 42.
I like to think that Joseph didn’t FORGET his family, the way we think of forgetting, so much as he filed them away under things that hurt him, but he no longer wants to keep fresh in his mind. He moved on. He made a kind of peace with God over these things and got on with his beautiful life, remembering that it was God who gave him this life. Others think differently.
Have you ever felt a chill at a sudden flick of memory that comes out of nowhere and stops you short with whatever you are doing? I have. It has happened a lot. Usually these come about something I have said or done that harmed. I freeze up and can’t move forward for at least a minute or two. Obviously I have not forgotten these things even though I put them away. Sometimes, they are things that I have already confessed and been forgiven for, but they shock my memory anyway. Not so often they are memories of trauma; trauma I have forgiven but obviously have not wiped out of my brain. Even though we cannot always pull our memories out of the past and come up with clear thoughts about what went on, our memories are still in there. The question is, “Are these memories still capable of hurting us or are they worked out enough to be just things that we remember, but no longer need to react to?”
Worked out? Yes. Have these memories been talked out, spilled out, free flowing? Have these memories been shared so that we can see them more clearly and deal with them and how they affect our lives? Have we been held accountable by someone for the way we are handling them? The key to healing from our past, and still keeping our past as part of who we are, is to share our past. We need to find someone or a very small group of someone’s with whom we can share our pain and get it reorganized in our filing system so that it becomes a SIMPLE memory rather than a controlling one.
Question is, did he do it for real or did he just stuff it deep down inside trying to force forgetfulness? What about the name of the son he is so proud to have? Talk about a constant reminder of what he is forgetting.
Another important point for us is how often do we try to forgive and forget without really forgetting and then feeling like a failure because we can’t forget? The failure is in forgetting that FORGIVE and FORGET are not equal partners. We must forgive and then work out the forgetting so that what happened does not control us and our behavior toward the person(s) or incidences making it no longer a painful, hurtful memory. We cannot force forgetfulness on ourselves; we can only get rid of the need to feel hurt by letting God change our hearts and grow us.
May God help us to rid our lives of the need to feel pain over our past and give us His “peace that passes all understanding.”