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Friday, September 27, 2013

My filing cabinet

Memory is a powerful tool - learning how to use it to our advantage is probably one of the most difficult tasks we can undertake, for we remember what we'd be best to let go of and we don't remember some of the most awesome moments God provides for our growth and restoration.  If you have ever caught yourself bemoaning where you ARE, you have probably forgotten where you came FROM.  We have selective memories, at best.  Focusing too intently on one thing keeps us from seeing the things we might just need to hold a little closer to our hearts.

God makes everything come out right; he puts victims back on their feet... God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs. As high as heaven is over the earth, so strong is his love to those who fear him. And as far as sunrise is from sunset, he has separated us from our sins. As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud. Men and women don’t live very long; like wildflowers they spring up and blossom, but a storm snuffs them out just as quickly, leaving nothing to show they were here. God’s love, though, is ever and always, eternally present to all who fear him, making everything right for them and their children as they follow his Covenant ways and remember to do whatever he said.  (Psalm 103:6-18 MSG)

I think we are all a little guilty of yearning for the "good old days", aren't we? We want things to be the way they used to be - not because things were all that much better, but our memories paint the picture of those bygone times being way cooler or better than our present circumstance.  One thing I have learned to do when I am hit with a sudden bought of "good old day" yearning is to run things through my memory again, but through a different "filter".  I ask the Holy Spirit to make clear what it is I recall - not relying upon my "translation" of what I recall as the real way it was.  Even the "good old days" were riddled with some pretty heavy stuff and challenges I almost thought would break me.  I just choose to remember the good stuff and shut out the bad and I don't believe I am alone in this "memory" issue.

So, what does asking the Holy Spirit do for our "memory" which we cannot do for ourselves?  Perhaps it is best stated this way - he helps put into perspective the things we went through to get where we are.  In essence, he helps us remember things from our past which we've "worked through" which we'd probably rather not go through again.  We recall the "good stuff" - he helps us remember the "hard stuff".  I honestly believe remembering the "hard stuff" helps keep us from repeating mistakes, making unwise choices, and having to "relearn" lessons.  Another thing the Holy Spirit does by focusing our "remembrance" of events is help us define who we are - God's kids, cared for by his hand, and made right because he has watched over us through all of life's circumstances.  We might just miss that otherwise!

Probably one of the most significant ways the Holy Spirit helps us is in how he helps us "process" events.  As we go through stuff in life, he is there to help us process "through" them, keeping us from muddling through by our own efforts.  We sometimes forget this important "companion" we have on our journey - thinking we have to make it through on our own because in our mind we think we ought to be able to handle stuff.  We often formulate this belief of having to "handle stuff" we go through because it is kind of familiar to us - like we have been through something similar in the past.  If there is one thing I know for sure, the thing which seems vaguely familiar to me may look and sound a lot like something I have walked through before, but there are all different players, I am at a different point in my life, and the event is only "similar", it is not the "same".  We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to show us the similarities, but to also help us see the uniqueness in the circumstance.

The important thing to keep in mind is the work of the Holy Spirit in helping us with our "filing system".  You see, he is a "master filer" - he knows what will be needed again and what is okay to just "shred"!  If you are anything like me, you have a pile on the top of your desk right now of the mail from the past week.  Some is clearly junk mail and just needs to be discarded, but since it might be an offer for a credit card or the like, you probably stack them up until you have a couple to shred.  Other things in the pile are important, but really, once you read them, you don't need to save them - they will go in the shred pile, too.  A very few of the items in the pile actually need to make it to the filing cabinet - because they need to be saved for future reference. The Holy Spirit is attuned to the "right stuff" to save for "future reference". He can guide us in "shredding" the stuff which is just junk and the stuff which really doesn't matter once processed.  Then he leaves us with the things which really need to be "filed away" for future reference.

Since the work of the Holy Spirit is to both help us remember correctly and to file away what really matters, isn't it important to consult him when we might just be experiencing a little "recall" problem?  When we allow him to help us with recall, we often get a different perspective on the matter.  I went back to the home where I spent the first seven years of my life one day, but experienced extreme disappointment by what I saw.  I was disappointed because what I had "filed away" about the house made it out to be this palatial mansion, with a huge yard, and gigantic trees ready for the climbing.  When I saw the house, it was run down, no bigger than most subdivision homes of the day, and the trees had all been trimmed down to nubby miniatures.  My "memory" did not match "reality".  This is a perfect example of how we "file away" things which don't always "translate" into reality in quite the same manner!  

So, the next time we get a little too focused on wishing for the "good old days", we might just do well to ask the Holy Spirit to help us recall the "truth" about what we filed away!  He will help us see the work of God in our lives a little clearer and keep us on track.  We only need to ask.  Just sayin!