I was listening to the radio a few weeks ago and there was an advertisement for a supplement to improve memory. I know that at a particular time in life, memory, or lack thereof, is often a point of discussion. I have reminded people of the old phrase, “I have reached the point in my life when I believe in the hereafter, because I am always wondering what I am here after.”
Part of the promotion for this new product was based on a revolutionary discovery of a chemical found in jellyfish. I could not help but wonder what would a jellyfish possibly need to remember? While I claim no particular expertise in the subject of memory, I have been able to make some observations about memory and its affects both positive and negative.
One of the first that comes to mind is the “paralyzing” memory, which is a past failure, written in such large letters in our hearts and minds, it eliminates the hope of moving forward in an area of life. I tried that and failed I am never going to try that again. This memory, from my perspective, is fear based, and tragically may last a lifetime.
Next is the “distortion” memory, which influences our perception of reality to a point where we are tempted to revisit destructive behaviors or circumstances because “it really wasn’t that bad.” In fact, a distorted memory can transform a terrible reality into something positive or good.
There is a biblical picture describing the complaints of the former Egyptian slaves as they were on their way to the Promised Land. “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost — also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11:5-6 NIV)
Here was a group of people directly cared for by God, and yet they forgot the cruel beatings, being forced to eliminate their first born sons — but the melons were good. Distorted memory may influence the decision of the abused spouse to return to her abuser, or perhaps why a person struggling with chemical addiction issues goes back to their drug of choice.
There are no doubt other destructive memory patterns, and not all memory is negative, and there are several healthy positive ones that easily outweigh the negative. Our memories are things that can keep us going during difficult times. They are the things that bring comfort in our time of loss, that keep alive inspiring events in our hearts and minds.
The King James version never translates Jesus using the word “memory,” but the New International version uses the word twice by different authors to describe the same event. I will quickly put in context the story from Mark’s letter. Jesus had been invited to eat at the home of Simon the Leper when a woman opened a container of expensive perfume and poured it out on the head of Jesus. While some objected, Jesus said let her alone. What she was doing had such significance that, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9 NIV)
Finally when Jesus was celebrating the Passover meal, which provided the symbols and basis for what is called communion, He said in part: “And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19 NIV)
Christ’s sacrifice that brought us into relationship with Him is our most important memory. We are a few weeks away from the celebration of His Resurrection, but it is not too soon to remember the sacrifice.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.