I have a monumental task in front of me, sorting through tons of photographs that belonged to my parents. My Mother loved to take photos as a record of everyday life and special occasions such as anniversaries and family reunions. She was quite the shutter-bug! As I was looking at some of her photo albums I got to thinking of the plastic tubs full of my own photographic journey. I have a lot of photos to sort through as well. I have decided to sort all of our combined photographs and make a photo album or two for each of my parent’s grandchildren. There are seven grandchildren in all and then of course there are great-grands and great-great grands but I think making seven photo albums is a good start in sharing the memories.
Sorting photographs has brought back a lot of memories, some good and some not so good. Some memories bring a few tears as my emotions kick in and I remember how much fun we had as a family. I haven’t looked at my own photos for years and honestly I am not sure that I want to, but it is a job that needs to be completed. I think now is a good time to start.
We all have memories. Perhaps we forget more than we remember, but we all have memories. What to do with some of my memories is as difficult as trying to decide what to do with some of my photographs. For instance, what does one do with the engagement photos, marriage photos, reception photos, and special togetherness photos all these years after the divorce? Maybe we should have had some divorce photos taken to have a well-rounded photo portfolio of my life! I can just envision it now, him standing on one side of the judge and I on the other with our lawyers lined up like groomsmen and bridesmaids! After all I had a female lawyer and he had male lawyers. Our children can be the candle lighters, ring bearer, and flower girls. Oh and maybe we should all be wearing black or red or something! Then again, maybe not!
Sorting through the memories of more than forty years from first meeting to divorce finale is a lot of memories to sort through and categorize. What memories do you keep and what memories do you take out to the back yard and bury? What memories do I share with others and what memories do I keep locked up and out of sight?
I have often said that when a spouse dies the remaining spouse can keep all the memories if they want and can cherish them forever. However when a spouse leaves through the process of divorce it seems to taint even the good memories. Often I find myself questioning each memory and wondering if there was something else going on of which I was unaware. I have become quite suspicious of certain memories as to whether what I thought was the truth was actually the truth. I have really had to work hard to not become cynical because of the trust that has been broken in me. It isn’t just the trust of the past relationship that I question. Rather I find myself unable or unwilling to trust anyone and question every relationship as to authenticity and value….all because of tainted memories.
I always have loved the way the Apostle Paul would begin his letters with his memories, here’s an example:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus, Philippians 1:3-6,” (New American Standard Bible or NASB).
I actually used to write in my opening line of letters to family and friends something similar to what Paul wrote. Living away from my family for so many years as a military spouse I would recall with fond memories the love I had for the people I was writing to. I wanted the receiver of my letter to know that I remembered them with love. That is what Paul is doing and he is also encouraging the receiver of his letter. But in divorce there are some remembrances of some people and situations I would rather forget!
If I am completely honest about my study of Paul I have to acknowledge that there are some memories he would probably like to forget as well. I mean, how many times was Paul beaten or put into prison or roughed up or ship wrecked? I can imagine that he would not wish to remember those negative memories, so let’s take a closer look at these verses. He remembers and then he prays for those who are in his thoughts. I do this as well, even when I am walking in my mind through a memory involving my ex-husband or someone else that has hurt me I stop and pray for him and them. This is a positive way to handle a negative memory. So far so good!
Look at the second sentence, Paul says that he is confident that He (God) began a good work in the person Paul is remembering and that work will be completed or made perfect on the day of Christ Jesus. I think that this verse is a key verse for me or anyone else wrestling with memories from the past. If God began a good work in someone then God will bring that work to a perfect ending, that is what I see in this verse. If this is true then the opposite must also be true, if God didn’t begin a good work in someone then there is nothing perfect or completed when Jesus Christ comes again. See what I am getting at? Jesus makes us perfect enough to be brought before God on judgement day. If we don’t belong to Jesus then we are not perfect and will not enter heaven. We have another place waiting for us where the imperfect will spend eternity, and that place is the opposite of heaven, it is hell.
I know that God has begun a good work in me so I can be confident that when Jesus Christ returns to earth that I will be made complete. This is awesomeness in motion here! I can handle the negative memories because I know where I am going to spend eternity and God will make me perfect, that includes my memories. All of my suspicions and doubts will be gone because the truth will be revealed! Wow!
We know how Paul began his letter to the Philippians but how did he end it? Perhaps there will be another clue as to how we can handle memories.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit,” Philippians 4:23, (NASB).
Aww, there it is…..grace, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is how we handle our negative memories. We sprinkle those memories with a generous helping of grace. What is grace? I looked it up on this link: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grace and found this definition, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification, a virtue coming from God, a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace.”
Grace is the best weapon to counter negative memories. God does the work in us so that we can be a gracious person. I have turned many memories over to God, sometimes I actually envision myself standing at the foot of the cross where Jesus hung and I am physically putting those memories there. This has helped me tremendously to counter cynicism and negative feelings of bitterness. The grace that comes from God allows me to let go of the past. I can cherish the good memories and I can handle the bad memories with God’s help. I hope this will help you as well.
Until next time……Katherine