My son treated me to a concert of Simon and Garfunkel music yesterday by the Grand Rapids Symphony and guest vocalists who wonderfully channeled the songwriters’ music. It was a delightful musical experience, but more importantly it created a memory in our life together.
That experience reminded me again that memory can be a powerful gift in our spiritual journey as well. It can even become a tool for transformation. In the Apprentice of Jesus program when we teach about our self-sacrificing God, we show a clip of Jesus on the cross. We teach participants that whenever they feel unloved and unvalued, they can bring up this unforgettable scene now stored in their memories. If I visualize Jesus’ tortured self-sacrifice and remember that it was for me, I can again feel loved and valued.
We also use a beat-up and broken cardboard box to create a memory. It stands as a visual metaphor for our battle-scarred and wounded lives. Then we put a candle in the box and contemplate the light shining through the rips and tears. Remembering the box lit from within helps me remember that Jesus in me shines through my sins and through the hurts in my life. I can then choose to become a wounded healer in the lives of others God puts in my path.
Just as my son intentionally chose to make a memory for my birthday, we can intention-ally carve out space and time to make our own memories with God. What those memories are depends on how we best experience God. We may remember feeling the presence of God through glorious music, or through the words of a book or sermon, or through a walk in the woods. We may have a memory of the power of a particular scripture verse, or of a time of serving someone in need, or of the community and fellowship we feel in a small group.
And then don’t let those memories lie fallow! Whenever you feel distant or estranged or lonely or unnecessary, call your memories up and put them to work!