I clearly remember warm summer days long ago when I would lie on the grass.
The sky was a canvas where I painted and planned my life. I owned mansions and elephants and dinosaurs—anything my heart imagined.
Everything was good. I didn’t think things would ever go wrong, but they did.
Shame. Stolen innocence.
Haunting memories I don’t want to talk about.
Is there a way back to the joy of innocence? Yes, but we must first walk the fields of the past. Only then can we lie carefree in the grass again.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol portrays a tormenting reflection on memories. As Scrooge desperately tries to push away every memory presented to him, he goes through a process he cannot stop. He relives things that he did and that others did, which haunt him. He struggles to push those memories away. They will not disappear. He has only one choice. He must face them and then decide what he wants to do with his future. He ultimately makes the right decision—to become kind and generous. But he realizes that in order to do this, he needs to make right many wrongs.
Embrace your memories
This is only a story, but it reflects reality. Memories affect us, even when we try to ignore them. There are many things we love to remember, but there are also those that haunt us, things we don’t want to talk about, that we think are best left forgotten. I’ve discovered that when one walks through deep waters, memories intensify. Flashbacks take place. Everything becomes more vivid. The past shouts to be heard.
We face a choice. We can continue to shut out the past or we can embrace the process of remembering. Then we can smile as we reflect on times of love and laughter and cherish the beauty in those memories. But there will also be painful places we need to visit where we can come to an understanding and bring closure within ourselves. As we do that, the memories will no longer have a hold on us.
It is necessary to reflect and reorient the memory with the present. There may need to be some conversations with a friend, professional or even those who were part of the story. This can help us come to a place of understanding and forgiveness. Yes, life has moved on, but the past has a tremendous impact on our present and future. As we are alerted to these memories, we need to give ourselves permission to identify and feel the emotions. When we are brave enough to feel, we find the path to move on.
Do battle with the pain
These memories are part of who we have become, both the happy and the painful ones. If we face them with an open heart, we become more tender towards ourselves and others. These difficulties help prepare us for who we are meant to be. We have to do battle with whatever broke our hearts and let God transform us.
Recently, I was reflecting on the impact of these long-ago memories with a friend. He told me, “the soul always remembers.” Those words struck me deeply. I realized that I couldn’t run away from the past. Memories are a gift—they are the timeless treasures of our heart. Sometimes, they are all we have of people and places that we loved. However, when the memories are painful, we have the opportunity to experience God’s grace and redemption as we deal with the pain and forgive those who have hurt us.
God wants us to experience His freedom. He promises, “the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) We are freed from the burden of our past when we come to terms with each memory, give the pain to God and reflect on how that memory impacts our current reality. Then healing and freedom take place.
Celebrate the healing
As you encounter things that trigger flashbacks, pay attention. Do you have something you need to resolve? What can that memory teach you that enables you to paint an even greater picture on the canvas of your life?
Embrace each memory.
Resolve the pain.
Celebrate the learning.
Lie down in the grass again!