There’s this nifty little function on Facebook called ‘Memories’ – I can click on that and look at all the past things I’ve posted on Facebook on that given date (how old do I sound in this sentence?). I like this because I can look back and see all the good things that have happened in my life: concerts, going on dates, international trips, meeting important or influential people, or hanging out with friends. I can see past observations I’ve made, quotes I may have liked at the time, or how I felt about this or that political issue. Sometimes, though, things come up that I don’t want to be reminded of: financial struggles, losses of employment, broken relationships, family hardships, dumb quotes, the starts of arguments…all the bad things that I don’t care to think about.
When I was a child, I knew that when I died I would have to account for my sins, but I wasn’t sure how God and I would review those sins. Would it be a book – a pictorial sin-biography? Would God just start rattling off my misdeeds and shortcomings and I would have to answer for each one? My creative little mind came up with the idea that God would project them on a screen – a retrospective film of my life, starring me. [And because I tend to make matters worse in my mind, I assumed everyone would be watching…and I mean EVERYONE, because we’d all be there in one place on the day of judgement]
I’d ask my Sunday School teachers about the consistency of God’s memory – was everything remembered…was there ever a lapse in memory…how big or small did a sin need to be for it to be remembered? I mean, God remembered Noah after the flood and God remembered about Israel time and time again…God has a good memory! Why wouldn’t God remember when I took that piece of candy, or when I told my mom I wasn’t at the park, or when I kept the dime meant for the offering plate? I asked all the questions because I was worried about my sins and that God’s memory would prevent me from getting through those pearly gates.
Certainly God remembers, but it’s not in the same way that we remember, or the way Facebook remembers. God doesn’t hold on to those memories and lord them over us; God doesn’t waive our mistakes in our faces; God doesn’t drop them in our minds to make us feel bad. God has forgiven us of our mistakes the moment we confess them. God has wiped them from the Divine memory as if they weren’t even there.
The truth is, the memories of my past sins are my memories, and I think they linger in my brain for a few reasons. They’re there because I haven’t forgiven myself of my sins, even though God has; I can’t seem to let go of this or that and I beat myself up with the memory. These are things I continually have to work on and ask God to help me forgive myself.
But the ‘sin memories’ are also there to remind me of the past – like Facebook – and to point me to the consequences of my mistakes. They give me a base line for my future actions and they guide me in my decision making.
Most importantly, I think they’re also there to remind me of God’s grace and love: Hey, Sheth, remember that time you did X? And remember when God forgave you for that? Well, God can certainly forgive you for this, too. These memories keep me balanced, in a way – they make sure I stay on trail, and when I waiver and falter I know where the trail is located and how to get back.
May we forgive ourselves as God has forgiven us! May the memories of our pasts not come back to haunt us! And may our memories give us direction in life, guiding us along life’s paths!
much love. sheth.