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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Your Memory, The Monster

"Your memory is a monster; you forget -- it doesn't. It simply files things away. It keeps things for you, or hides things from you -- and summons them to your recall with a will of its own. You think you have a memory; but it has you!"
John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

I saw this John Irving quote in the front pages of a new book called Return Policy by Michael Snyder. I could write an autobiographical book of lamentations on the musings shared in this one short quote.

Why does that monster (our memory) jump out at us when we least expect it? I am in a memory abyss right now which is why this quote struck a tender nerve tonight. When Irving referred to our memory as a monster, I don't think he was addressing our good memories. Although I have some good memories, that isn't what's consuming me currently.

It's the callous stuff -- the bitter stuff -- the dark, brooding, regretful stuff -- the stuff that ensnares the heart and attacks the spirit. Yes! That's where my thoughts live today -- dwelling on the ugly actions in my past. The thoughts aren't there every day, but they are today and were yesterday and the day before. And unfortunately they come and go in my life. God always pulls me through it, but many times I kick and scream the whole way out.

It's funny because before I became a Christian, dark memories didn't consume me. In fact dark thoughts rarely intruded my thinking. I guess it was because I never did anything wrong, I was always right, and I led my wicked life by my own self-created instruction manual (the one that said, "in life, only do what benefits Karen").

I found out that following my manual led me to some horrid and stupid decisions in my life. If I had lived my life according to God's manual, I would have made better decisions. Therein lies the problem. It's a classic case of dark versus light.

But here's the hard thing about becoming a Christian later in life: you've had all those years of dark living, not knowing, or not believing, that there is a light to compare it to. So, it was simply living -- not good, not bad, just living and doing what people in the world do -- mainly becoming numb to the constant promotion of extremes and jumping off the bridge with everyone else.

No harm in that... UNTIL you become a Christian.

A couple of years ago, I read a C. S. Lewis book called, The Problem of Pain. Many people think that once they become a Christian this solves the problem of pain in their lives. Lewis, who was an atheist before becoming a Christian, took the opposite stand saying that Christianity "creates rather than solves the problem of pain." Christianity brings to light all of the preexisting darkness in our lives. It's at that point of light that we look back at our lives before Him and plead, "God, what have I done, and can it be fixed?"

It's all of that unfixed stuff that hurts like hell, drives the evil memory monster, and leaves us brooding in moments, hours, days, or weeks of consumption.

That unfixed stuff is our guilt over all of those painful memories of our past: the people we harmed, the addictions that ruled our actions, the hurting people we ignored, the regrets, the mistakes, the stupidity... . God can and will remove our guilt if we release it to Him.

So why does our flesh hold on to it so stubbornly? I haven't figured that out yet which is why every six months or so memories of the dark consume me. If you have some insight here, I welcome it.

You may wonder, if you are not a believer, if you should even bother with this Christianty stuff if it opens your life to more intense painful realizations. The answer: YES! YES! YES! The reason why: because in the end, God will eliminate your memories of all that ugly stuff and instill you with a complete and perfect happiness. But, only if you choose Jesus, and you must choose Him now because you never know when that end is coming.


I've added a new Crapsey cinquain to my side bar that relates to my blog above. I know you are all avid readers of my side bar (yeah right), but I'll post it here anyway.

My Chains

amid distant
recollections, dense scars
shield a black, ragged heart while guilt

I've also updated my Christian Writer's Guild lesson summary in my side bar, if you are interested. It's a summary of my ponderings on an interview article about the stage adaptation of the C. S. Lewis book, The Screwtape Letters, which I desperately want to see.


  1. Anonymous said...

    Have you ever heard the song, "The Voice of Truth," by Casting Crown. Read the following lyrics and think on them -
    But the waves are calling out my name
    and they laugh at me
    Reminding me of all the times
    I've tried before and failed
    The waves they keep on telling me
    time and time again
    "Boy, you'll never win,
    you'll never win."

    But the voice of truth tells me a different story
    the voice of truth says "do not be afraid!"
    and the voice of truth says "this is for my glory"
    Out of all the voices calling out to me
    I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

    Feelings are just feeling, we are to look forward, not behind. Let the memories be distant, but know, they are the past. The memories are lessons not to repeat.

  2. Karen said...

    Thanks T. It's funny, but Hayden sang this in his spring choir performance this year. There's a line in it about wanting to have the strength to stand in front of the giant with a sling and a stone.

    We all have our giants don't we? God equips us all with a sling and a stone. This is a great reminder to allow the voice of truth to give us the power to pull out our sling and our stone when what we really want to do is dig our heals in and wallow in our abysmal moments.

    Love, K

  3. Melissa said...


    This is amazing stuff! Also, I loved your side bar post about Max McLean. I lived in NYC for 7 years and had the privilege of being on his lay readers team (we read the Scripture in church that the sermon was taken from). He is an amazingly talented man of God.

    What an incredible woman of God you have become. I'm so glad I ran across this on line.