The Pain of Memory
I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more. Hebrews 10:17
A random memory popped up yesterday that was particularly condemning. The guilt and shame of where I had been in life came suddenly rushing back. Have you ever had the weight of your past crush the breath out of you? I’ve never had a panic attack but I imagine it feels like that.
To those of us who have evil memories from our past, God offers the most comforting words in all of scripture. He says, I remember your lawless deeds no more. The God who created the universe offers me forgiveness and absolution when I place my faith in Jesus.
That we often return to our old ways is testament to the fact that we don’t realize the gift He has given us. We are forgiven and set free so we can turn from self and spend the rest of our lives pursuing the God-life we were meant to have.
Not all memories are evil of course. Sometimes I need to remember where I have been. There is a Godly grief that leads to repentance (1 Corinthians 7:10). I have, in treatment met those who on day two, decide that they have no life regrets as they have been forgiven. In their exuberant appreciation of God’s grace, they feel that the world should see them as God does. God’s forgiven me! Why can’t you?
God’s forgiveness, to be sure, does not set me free from Earthly consequences. If I rob a bank today and turn to God tomorrow, He may forgive, but the law is not going to be impressed by my new birth. Likewise, if I hurt my family in pursuit of self, it may be unwise to flaunt the fact that I am forgiven as they are still in the hurt.
It is in looking to God that I can discern how to hold my memories. When my past condemns me, I can be comforted by the reality that He remembers my lawless deeds no more while simultaneously grieving over the pain I have caused. I can use that grief to produce a hunger for change (1 Corinthians 7:11) in my behavior. My grief can remind me that I want to be more than I have been. It can motivate me to pursue God instead of self.