I do not understand what I’m supposed to do with memory. The snarky response, of course, is, “Remember things.” This would be all well and good, if I knew what to remember and what to forget.
I went through old pictures today, as I am setting up a Flickr account. I want to get back into photography after a bit of a hiatus, and reminding myself what I’m capable of is a good start. The process, however, was a complicated one. I found good things that I never want to forget in the albums; I remembered things that I had already put out of my mind.
What am I supposed to remember?
One is a book of bad pictures from a very happy trip to DC; do I keep those? The pictures suck, after all; they’re all blurry, fuzzed-out and unfocused. But they evoke a sort of dream state, as I can’t remember those specific moments except through the feelings I associate with it and (as of an hour ago) those hazy, exuberant pictures. I like it.
Far more difficult is the set of pictures I found next. The album is from a happy time, but later the subjects would have very unhappy times that now cast a pall over the photos. The photos are good; I would like to show them off. But I would rather not have to think about anything related to the situation that followed; I’d rather forget it. Am I allowed to forget things that I want to forget? Can I delete the pictures and go on with my life?
Is it important to remember bad things, even years later? Even when there is nothing else to be learned? Is there ever a stopping point on learning? How about when the situation is in stasis, as healed as it can reasonably be, and yet it hurts because the troubles were so painful that even the memory sets off pangs of guilt, sadness and struggle?
Is remembering part of healing? Or is forgetting part of it?
I tend to advise people that forgetting is not part of healing. We can’t just stow the recent unpleasantness and imagine that it will simply evaporate. These things need to be dealt with. But what constitutes “dealt with”? When is it done? When can I rewrite that part of my brain with something else?
It’s not reasonable to assume that the problematic past will walk hand in hand with us each day. I have a busy life, and I’d prefer to keep bringing victory in, as the Avett Brothers would say. Or should I? Would that numb me to the presence of the ill? Is that healing? Is the fact that I don’t think about it anymore unless I’m looking at old pictures a numbness of its own?
I only care about these answers because I want to heal. Not just be happy, but be healed. I guess this needs an operational definition too. Full healing, I suppose, is the transformation of our bodies in heaven and the removal of our sinful thorn. There will be no black mark then; we will be whole. And I want this, before heaven.
It is not possible to achieve on this mortal coil; I can’t be perfect, which I would need to be if I wanted total wholeness and healing. I will always be broken. Does that mean that there are some things I will never be free from? I don’t know. I believe in the complete power of Christ to control the world; I believe in the fallen nature of man. That struggle, whether in the world or in my soul, is the difference between healing and perpetual dismay. I must submit myself to Christ to be healed; many days I just don’t want to.
Are we allowed to forget? I still have no clue. But I know that we can be whole again, when we allow Christ to work in us. Some days (today!), I have no idea what that work accomplishes. But I know that he is doing a work in me here on earth, and he will complete it when I die.
I will be healed.