There is a difference between a memory and a photograph.
A photograph is simply evidence of times gone by, a memory is a dynamic and malleable thing which grows and changes as your continuing and current experience causes you to revisit, reinterpret, relive, and reevaluate the moments stored for future reference in your memory.
There are memories which seem to live forever and others which you may strive to recall, but all memories seem to have the ability to resurface on their own time, desired or not, to bring you back into a moment of time and wash you anew with the sensations of joy or of loss, of peace or of anxiety, of fulfillment or of despair. There doesn’t seem to be a reason, and often it is the painful, the sad, and the awful which stick with you the longest, rising time and again to drag you back into that same negative space you thought you had left behind.
Sometimes memory is a blessing. Sometimes it is a curse. No matter the content of your storage banks, they continue to collect, explore, and recover both the present and the past. Seeking to understand the context. Striving to resolve the outcomes. Looking for an answer. Or just reliving the sensation. Memory is a part of you that is more of an input than a decision, more of an experience than a choice.
Like emotions there is the opportunity to interact with memory in an intentional fashion. You can make decisions which will bring your memory alive and cause it to contribute to your present situation. Or, when they happen upon you of their own apparent volition, you can choose how to address them, respond to them, or turn them to your benefit.
There is, however, one thing you cannot do with memories, you can not rewind and unlive them.
So, what does God intend for you to do with those memories that you don’t want any more?
The most common answer is, set them down.
The challenge is, how do you set something down that is entangled with who you are and where you have gotten in life?
In one sense, that memory will always be there — available on demand in the event that you need it for reaching someone else in need or reminding yourself of where you have come from so that you will appreciate where you are or where you are going, but how do you get to a place where your memory is just a tool and not also an obstruction?
You may find yourself trying to set down those negative, destructive, unhealthy memories so that they will no longer have any power over you. What you want is a place where they will no longer be driving the boat, where they will no longer be determining the pathways your thoughts go down in response to some situation.
So, the question is, how do you set down a memory?
It’s not as easy as just letting go. I’ve tried that many times and what I have discovered is that although I may let go of it, those negative memories have a way of still hanging on to me even after I think I’m done with them.
So, how do you let go of something that won’t let go of you?
The answer is conversion.
The enemy wants to define you by your negative experiences and rule over you by means of your memories of them, but the prophet Isaiah suggests a different outcome,
““Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”
The law will go out from Zion,
the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, descendants of Jacob,
let us walk in the light of the Lord.” – Isaiah 2 (NIV)
Swords into plowshares. Spears into pruning hooks.
In other words, the best defense is a good offense.
What makes a bad memory a bad memory is more than just the subject matter involved. What makes a bad memory a bad memory has a lot to do with what you do with it and whether or not you have found a way to take advantage of it now.
The key to walking in the light, following God’s pathways, and climbing the mountain of peace, prosperity, and joy — the key is found in accepting the weapons that the enemy would use against you and converting them into tools for building your future success.
You have the power to turn the enemy’s swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. You have the ability to accept everything that you have ever done and everything that has ever been done to you by bringing it all into the service of what you are doing now and everything that you want to accomplish in the future.
You can’t unlive your life, but you can discover forgiveness and receive salvation right here, right now, today by accepting what God sees when He sees you.
God is ready to show you how each negative experience, each problem, each issue, every single influence that the enemy has ever had in your life — God is ready to show you how you can use those experiences and turn those memories from power sinks to power centers.
Your weaknesses can be God’s greatest opportunities. If you are willing, if you are ready, if you make the decision to use your memories to bless others — strengthen, encourage, inspire, support, and defend them — then you will discover that those negative messages, those destructive experiences, those horrendous memories that used to hold you back, will start to propel you forward.
God can use you, just as you are. God can take you, just as you are. God is calling you, just as you are.
It’s not that any of your bad experiences were in God’s plan, it’s more that God’s plan absolutely won’t allow any of them to prevent Him from fulfilling His purpose in you. And even more than that, every weapon formed against you is actually a tool to empower you in potential.
I mean, consider the fact that Jesus was able to convert what looked to be His greatest defeat into His greatest victory. No one would think that dying as a criminal in some backwater fringe of the Roman empire would lead to the opportunity for salvation for the entire human race — especially not the enemy, and, more importantly especially not Jesus as He was approaching the cross heavy with the burden of what lay before Him — but that is exactly what Jesus accomplished. His toughest moment, His hardest time, His greatest defeat, everything that the enemy had to throw at Him, every weapon formed against Him, all of it, He was able to wrap up, turn around, and convert into His greatest accomplishment and His eternal victory; opening the way to you, and to me, and to all people for all time — conquering death and the grave and crushing once and for all any illusion that the enemy could control the outcome when people have the faith to stand up and walk in the footsteps of their savior.
So, the next time you find yourself dwelling on some past hurt or some long ago error, ask yourself this, “How can I convert this to bless someone today?”
God’s kingdom is built when you join God in converting all things into blessings. No matter what the enemy intends, every single attack can be turned into an opportunity to reach someone with the good news of salvation. And the more you become the messenger of the good news, the more you will discover that those past injuries and historic failures no longer hold sway over your thinking, your decision making, or your life.
It’s like Jesus said,
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8 (NIV)