Memories can haunt us. I was listening to a story on NPR’s StoryCorp recently and heard a tender conversation between an aged father who told his adult son that, all of his life, he regretted a moment when he had abusively beaten him in a moment of frustration. The son was moved by his father’s words and tried to help his dad put the memory in perspective. The father contacted NPR later and said that talking about the lingering regret had finally helped him put the memory to rest.
In this sense, memories can help us to deal with unresolved hurts. If we still have an opportunity to come to terms with the issue with someone we’ve harmed, a haunting memory can provide the incentive.
Yes, it’s also true that Jesus did warn about “looking back.” Using an agricultural word picture, he once said “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). But in context, he was talking about a similar situation to what happened when Lot’s wife looked back (or lingered) rather than turning her back on Sodom. When it comes to turning from past relationships to follow Christ, second thoughts– can entangle us. In that case, memories of what we’re not sure we want to let go of can keep us from enjoying a new day.
But I’ve been thinking of another reason to dig around in the attic of our mind for old memories we’ve forgotten about. One time to do that is when we seem to be at a dead end with nothing but our fears closing in on us.
Over and over the Lord of Israel urged His people to face a present challenge by remembering how He had delivered them from the whip of Egypt. Over and over He urged them to find new courage by remembering the day they huddled together in terror, on the shores of the Read Sea, with the armies of a furious Pharaoh closing in on them. Repeatedly, He reminded his people to remember not only the miraculous deliverance that followed, but also how, one day at a time, for 40 years, He provided for their needs in the extreme conditions of a barren wilderness.
Memories of our own Pharaohs, Goliaths, and Philistines can be like pages from the history of the ways in which our God has shown himself a faithful Father. They can help us to take confidence in the thought that, up until now, our God has provided for us (1Samuel 7:12).