Some memories are sweet. Some memories dredge up pain. What do you do with them?
Miroslav Volf has struggled with bitter memories of sustained interrogations, threats of detainment, and psychological torture by “Captain G” of the Communist army in Yugoslavia (now Croatia). He not only had to acknowledge the wrongs done to him; God taught him how to remember with redemptive purpose (The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World).
“Much of the conflict in the world, whether between individuals or between communities, is fueled by memory of what has happened in the past. On the one hand, we have to remember to preserve our identity … in order not to allow similar violations in the future.” Miroslav calls this safeguarding of identity: “the shield of memory.” Unfortunately, that shield can quickly mutate into a sword that cuts and slashes.
But thankfully, Scripture provides the framework for remembering rightly. We “don’t want to disregard our deeds and our sufferings,” says Volf, “but in Exodus, the Israelites didn’t just remember what they had suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. That was the backdrop to remember what God did for them. It’s a hopeful memory of liberation, a memory of salvation. If you emulate that, then you can remember rightly.”
Remembering rightly is all over the Bible: remember the Lord your God, remember what he has done for you. “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15; cf. 6:21; 15:15; 16:12; 24:17, 22).
What will happen if you asked the Lord to redeem your painful memories? I think you’ll become a living monument to all Christ has done for you in redeeming your past.