written by Rev Gary Heard
We remember Auschwitz and all that it symbolises because we believe that, in spite of the past and its horrors, the world is worthy of salvation; and salvation, like redemption, can be found only in memory.” – Elie Wiesel
Memories are strange things – a curious mixture of cherished thoughts and experiences, and those which evoke deep disturbance, and which bear scars of darker moments, and darker days. Some life experiences are remembered as though from a distance, others with objectivity, some with a ready sense of joy and elation, yet others like open wounds. These memories shape who we are, forming us in the present and into the future.
But we aren’t only shaped by the memories we carry, we are also empowered with the ability to shape those memories, to not let them have power over us, but to reform them in order that we might be improved by them, that our actions might be sharpened by them, our intent focussed in the wake of memories.
The ability to shape memory and turn it to positive effect empowers us as creators, rather than merely victims. Were we to only carry memories, we might be imbued only with a spirit of retribution, or mere anger, considering that we might only stamp out evil, rather than redeem it.
As we reflect on the place of darkness in our lives and in the purposes of God, we are not only speaking of history, but memory. Not simply of once-off events, but those which reverberate through our being. We never really leave the dark places behind, they continue to journey with us, oft-uncomfortable companions on the journey.
The Bible is a significant book of memory: it retells important stories of our past, not as an objective record of history, but as a memory to shape our actions in the present. It contains realities we would prefer to ignore (yet, at our peril), truths which stretch and confront us, and promises which form and stretch us. We are invited to learn lessons that we might repeat, others we might avoid, and others which serve as signposts along the way. To forget is to impoverish our present, in the same that that choosing to remember untruthfully or maliciously impoverishes us afresh and makes us newly vulnerable.
The Bible retains stories of darkness and light, shades of grey, and unresolved conflicts. But it does so in a redemptive context – reminding us that these memories, and our present, work towards a glorious future under the hand of God, as the apostle Paul writes:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
May our memory as the people of God be so shaped by the Spirit and purposes of God.
June 29, 2008