The other day we found an old photograph of my now 23 year-old daughter and her now 24 year-old boyfriend playing in the dirt together back when they were 4 and 5 years old respectively.  Everybody say….”Awwwwwwww!” Since then we have found a few more childhood pictures of them together and, should they ever end up getting married, we will have the coolest pictures ever to show at the reception!

Of course, the nostalgia generated by that first picture sent us searching through all our old pictures, resulting in an evening of unexpected entertainment consisting mainly of hysterical laughter at old hairstyles and clothes, shrieks of “Get rid of that!”, at the toothless smiles and awkwardness of elementary school years, and the usual “Oooo’s”, and “Awww’s” that baby pictures inevitably generate. 

Just so you know, most of our pictures are in one huge plastic bin; not in snazzy Creative Memories photo books, not in cutesy scrapbooks or even old-fashioned photo albums; nope, they are all in a huge plastic bin with a blue lid that I bought on sale, at Target. I know, I ought to be ashamed, but I can explain.

You see the plastic bin full of pictures is part of my retirement plan; that, and my intention to become all of the Golden Girls rolled into one spitfire of an old lady, living in a warm tropical climate somewhere.  I plan to be wise and rational like Dorothy, as caring and loving as Rose, to dress like Blanche…no elastic-waist polyester pants for me, and like Sophia I will say the most outrageous things, just to keep life interesting for everybody. 

Then during the hours when my old body needs to rest so it can catch up with my active, fast-paced retirement life, I am going to bust out the plastic bin with the blue lid, bask in the memories, creatively organize the pictures and take the advice of Charles Hamilton Aïdé, to:

“… pray for wisdom yet; for calmness to remember, or courage to forget.”

An interesting things about memories is that, just like the pictures in the plastic bin, some are true treasures; parts of our history that ought to be preserved and cherished, while others are flotsam and jetsam; also part of our history, but inherently useless and unproductive that just need to be thrown away or set aside while we get on with the business of life. Wisdom gives us the ability to differentiate between the two.

Do you ever wonder why it is so easy to forget the good memories from our past, but the ones that cause so much hurt and pain refuse to just shut up and go away?  And, why is it so hard to define ourselves by memories of good experiences we have had, but so much easier to let memories of horrible things said and done in the past define and direct our present and future? 

The good news is that this is one of those rare situations where the answer to that “Why?” is not very important; what is important is that we have the power to choose which memories we will keep and use, and which ones we will refuse to put in the scrapbook we are creating today.

The Bible is full of examples of the ying and yang of remembering and forgetting.  When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt after about 400 years of slavery, he told them,

“Remember this day on which you came out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, because the Lord brought you out from there by strength of hand…” Exodus 13:3

They should have listened to him, because the journey that should have taken about 11 days took 40 years, because they repeatedly forgot the things they were supposed to remember, and remembered the things they were supposed to forget.

Over in the New Testament Paul talked about his life:

“…this one thing I do; forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

And Paul is one who knew the importance of remembering and forgetting because his past was littered with ignorance, arrogance, and murder.  In fact, when he was still called Saul, he stood by holding the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death, just because he believed in Jesus. How many times do you think that memory came back to haunt Paul as over and over he preached the same gospel for which Stephen had been stoned to death.

Paul went on to become the most effective evangelist, and defender of Christianity this world has ever known because of his ability to forget the horrible memories of his complicity in the murder and persecution of Christians. He chose instead to remember his life-changing encounter with Jesus Himself on the Damascus road, which set Paul on an entirely new path to fulfill his true calling and purpose.

So, here’s the thing, when memories come knocking at you door do yourself a favor and take a look through the peephole first.  If they are the ones that come to condemn: to destroy your faith, crush your hope and leave you too crippled with hurt, guilt and fear to take another step into your future, do not open the door and invite them in for tea and a chat!  No!  Lock the door, turn the deadbolt, slide the chain into place and ignore the knocking till they go away.  This is not the time to be hospitable and entertaining. 

If however, the memories knocking on your door are the ones that encourage and strengthen you, restore your confidence and feed your faith and trust in God, do invite those ones in to sit awhile and reminisce.  They will provide exactly what you need to rise from where you may have fallen, to strap on your armor and courageously take the next step on your journey; to… just live the thing.

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