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Do you ever find yourself sitting alone in a room with the lights off and the shades cracked half-way open, just quietly reflecting on where the Lord has brought you from? I do on almost a weekly basis…sometimes daily. Its hard not for me to consider that at one time I was living in darkness without the goodness of his grace waking me up each morning and urging me to share the love, and restoring kindess of His Son with others.

But I think as much as I remember my past I don’t nearly enough give thought to how or why I’m remembering it. I forget that my remembering is an interpretive act, one in which I’m not always fair or accurate.

Jess (my Wife) laughs at me because I have this habit of finishing conversations with people I’ve had in the past out loud. Its like my memory is bringing what’s been over into the actual now of my life. I don’t know why I do this, I guess its partly due to my extroverted nature, I typically do it when its just Jess and I around or just myself. Its a way for me to not be alone…odd I know.

Chapter Two: Memory – a shield and a sword

Volf’s chapter really grabbed me, his analogy of the human memory being like a quilt wove right into the way I sometimes picture my own story – as a series of connected yet distinct events all weaving into one story.

Listen to his quilt analogy;

“The memory that helps make us up is a veritable patchwork quilt stitched together from the ever-growing mountain of discrete, multicolored memories. What will be stitched into the quilt and what will form a background, will depend greatly on how we sew our memories together and how others – from those who are closest to us all the way to our culture as a whole – sew them together for us. We are not just shaped by memories; we ourselves shape the memories that shape us.” pg. 25

Its easy to see why Volf talks about memory as both a shield and a sword in light of this patchwork quilt analogy. If we sew our memories together we can decide how to defend ourselves against remembering evil wrongly. We can view suffering as pain or we can view suffering as that which the Lord has delivered us from in the present (and may take us back into).

But memory can also be a sword with which we wound others, each of the ways it functions as a shield can be twisted into a sword for violence. Volf suggests four ways memory can be a shield: interpreting (when we take the isolated evil and place it into the larger context our lives pgs. 27-28), acknowledging (when we see the evil for what it is rather than only what we may desire to make it out to be pgs. 28-30), solidarity (being awakening either by remembering our own suffering or that of others and fighting against with others), and protecting (it is important to not always remember the evil of others for that may goad them onto more).

Lest we be quick to forget that memory is also a sword Volf reminds us, “…the memory of wrongs may wound, may breed indifference, may reinforce false self-perceptions, may reinjure.” pg. 33 “My point is, however, that the memory of wrongs suffered is from a moral standpoint dangerously undetermined.” pg. 34

I left Volf’s chapter thinking to myself; “Do I use my memory more often as a sword or as a shield?” I fear the latter is true of me rather than the former, that I remember in ways that wound, breed indifference, reinforce false self-perceptions, and even reinjure others with that which I’ve been injured with – but with greater temerity than the one who injured me.

God save me from my pernicious patterns of memory…