I think it’s funny how my memory sometimes works. I can recall a reaction, a phrase, a gesture or an obscure fact. If you know anything about me you know that I am really big into music.
I always have been.
Every year my school holds a Week of Ministry where they send teams to various parts of the country and other countries to be servants, teachers, learners and whatever else becomes necessary wherever a need arises. It can be one of the most difficult and the most intense week of your life at NCC or it can be one of the greatest experiences you’ll have. My trip was definitely the latter. There was so much amazing stuff that I may include it in a different post. It’s outside the purposes of this one. But what really made it bearable was music. And not just any music because I can’t stand current pop music of any kind.
It all started with a mix CD simply labeled “The 90’s”. As soon as it began to play I began to feel almost this synesthesia, as if I was suddenly in junior high again in a good way. As good as it can be, anyway. But the songs came flooding back to me and I still remembered
And the best part was having one of the trip sponsors catching me singing along to a Matchbox 20 song and asking me with a bit of a look of shock on her face
“You like Matchbox 20?”
It seemed a silly question to me but in the moment I understood the real story behind the question. I don’t look or perhaps exude that kind of vibe that I would be interested in a pop album that was released 15 years ago. But I told her with great confidence that I’ve owned the album since it came out and I still listen to it. In fact, I happened to have it on my iPhone. Some people find it amazing what we remember, even something like Matchbox 20’s album “Yourself or Someone Like You” or the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Dizzy Up the Girl”. I find it amazing too. I got a smile and a high five for my memory.
People can connect on the simplest of things.
But it’s the simple things that turn out to be the most powerful sometimes. They let us know that other people are human too even when we feel like we have no common ground whatsoever. What I’ve found is that there’s always common ground but sometimes you have to be willing to search for it.
Probe a little.
Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. And remember the smallest of details.
I remember a time over a year ago where my life felt as if it had sunk to its lowest depths. Before the winter hit I had gotten over it completely and had moved on to a completely new neurotic obsession of some kind, I’m sure. If you haven’t been reading my blog up until recently you don’t know anything about the disaster that was second semester last year. The short version of the story was that I had my heart broken repeatedly by the same person until finally she ran away in fear of the pain or so I thought. I learned that sometimes life needs to be restarted so you can heal the wounds you have so that you can then work on the actions that kept inflicting them. I know now that’s really what should have happened. But for the longest time I obsessed over the pain she caused me and then I gradually begin to let it fade.
Then I forgot it.
I’ve often wondered if I have truly forgiven somebody once the pain, the anger or whatever negative emotion I’ve been feeling is gone. Most of the time forgetting is a byproduct of time elapsing and my moving on. I don’t always forgive.
Because then I remember and it all comes washing back. I find myself staring at something, not really seeing and just imagining scenario after scenario after scenario. It just gets me even more worked up. But something strange happens sometimes when you’ve truly forgiven someone. I know because it’s been happening to me lately. That girl who wrecked shop on my life over the span of just a few months came back to my mind for reasons I’ve yet to ascertain. Part of me really wants to see if she’s still out there and I’ve wrestled with the idea of trying to contact her, I guess.
But I remember her.
Because I asked her questions. I got to know her.
For the first time in a long time I put myself out there and she saw right through me. In turn, though, I saw the tiny little details and I could see her heart sometimes.
Memory can be powerful and meaningful but at the same time can cause some of the deepest pains and reopen some of the oldest wounds. Have you ever wondered how, in some of the most random situations, your memory brings back feelings you thought you were long since dead? Truth be told, it’s why I’m so neurotic, I think. Dr. Ekman refers to this as “importing scripts”. The idea is that you have been so conditioned to certain stimuli that your brain will instantly bring in the feelings and emotions it attaches to that situation or ones that are related to it. It’s part of the reason why someone who has been abandoned time and time again will start to react when something comes close to feeling like abandonment.
Your mind remembers that pain.
God remembers too.
Better than that, God knows.
God knows the very number of hairs on your head better than I can recall the words to “3 AM”. He knows the pain and the depression I endured because he knows everything about me and has since before I was born. Since before you were born. God doesn’t just remember like we do but he knows as a fact the most finite and infinitesimal things about who we are and what we are capable of from the 90’s pop albums to the most intense emotional pains. Every tear that’s been cried, every smile that’s ever broken free in someone’s face like rain from a cloud.
And God is not distant, watching our pain from a golden throne. He actually entered human history in the form of a child. That child became a man and interacted with human suffering and sin on a daily basis for three years, all the while saying that he too was human but that he was also God. The writer of Hebrews says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 ESV) All this to say that God became man and every encounter he had that we have recorded in the Bible all stare these pained and suffering people and said, “I know”. To add an exclamation mark to this already profound story, Jesus is subjected to some of the worst physical torture that anyone could imagine and nailed to a cross.
Think about that.
Think about all the terrible things that have happened to you. At their worst they could not begin to amount to the cumulative pain, suffering, mocking, humiliation that all lead up to an undeserved death.
And yet, through it all, we now have someone real to follow who can, without a doubt say when everything else falls, fails, wins, loses, draws, dies, withers and loves, probably one of the most comforting things that could strike us between the ears.