Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Up until a few weeks ago, if someone had asked me what my earliest memory is, I have a handful of memories from around age five that immediately come to mind. I remember being in church at an evening service as a small child, lying down in the pew and watching the pastor talking. I remember lying on the floor after jumping off the stairs, which resulted in a broken arm. I remember a birthday party when my birthday cake was a barbie doll in a princess dress.
However, recently my mom gave me this amazing scrapbook she had complied throughout my childhood that detailed each year of school from pre-school until high school graduation. There were class pictures, newspaper clippings, drawings I had done, and details recorded of what teachers I had, what girls I was friends with, big events from that year. It was so fun to look through this book at a mini-version of myself and remember things that I haven't thought about in years. One fun thing that happened while I was looking at this scrapbook was that I recalled a memory that would have been earlier than all the other "first" memories I could have listed before. I very distinctly remember being in preschool, sitting at the table and finger painting with chocolate pudding. I would have been either three or four years old at the time. I have a new earliest memory!
I have always considered myself someone who has a poor memory and have often had trouble remembering lots of things from my childhood. And often when I do try to remember, I remember the bad memories way faster than the good memories. The friends who hurt me, the struggle of being a chubby kid, the months of bullying, the boys I liked who didn't like me back. The reality is, many things that happened in childhood are what produced wounds in my heart and emotional struggles for me as an adult. Perhaps it is not that I have a bad memory, but that something inside me feels it is easier not to remember.
But throughout the days after looking through this book, literally dozens, if not hundreds, of happy memories resurfaced from my childhood. Playing with the water toys outside in my primary grades, going trick or treating with my best friends, different class projects and field trips, family vacations, church kids group sleep-overs, Easter breakfasts, Christmas traditions, singing as a family and on and on. It felt good to remember.
From a few different sources I have been learning that there is a much better alternative to trying to repress painful or hurtful memories. As with me, often if we try to block out the pain of our past, we block out the joy and grace in our past as well. Instead of doing this we can bear honest witness to those memories and then take them to Jesus and let Him redeem them. Jesus is not shocked by our past. He not only knows it already, but was with us through every moment. I have deeply appreciated being able to remember those moments that caused emotional scars and ask Jesus to reveal how He was present with me in those moments. Even better, I have loved releasing that pain to Him and letting him redeem those memories.
I find myself in a new place lately where I can think back and embrace both the fun memories of childhood and the hurtful ones with openness and grace. I do not have to distance myself from my past, but know that Jesus was present then, is with me now, and will continue walking with me as I move forward.
What is your earliest memory? How have you dealt with memories that cause you pain?