When bad memories go good: The joy of Easter
WHEN BAD MEMORIES BECOME GOOD
Bible writers tell us over and over to remember. They tell us that if we remember the great things God has done for us, then we will understand God's power, love and loyalty to those who love him. In fact, the Bible often equates remembering with faith and unbelief with forgetting. Said plainly, people believe in God because they remember. They lose faith in God because they forget. This is one of the reasons why God's people have so many holidays. When we remember holidays, we remember the many times God has helped his people. And in the case of Easter, we remember the sufferings Jesus endured to save us. Of course, there are times when having a memory isn't such a good thing?
Do you sometimes feel as if you're at war with your memory? Sometimes we remember incidents we would much rather forget. Sometimes these memories are simply embarrassing. They make you cringe every time they come to mind. Like the time you got locked in the bus bathroom on the school trip and everyone had to wait while the driver freed you. Or the time you ripped your dress down the back and nobody told you. These cringing moments make you cringe. But they don't crush you. The memories that hurt are the ones that remind you of bad things that happened to you or to someone you love. These memories are usually so bad they make you fearful, hopeless, angry, or just plain sad. You feel stuck and you have no way of getting away from the past. What do you do?
The followers of Jesus might have had the same feelings too. Except for the wonderful power of resurrection. You remember the story. It was on a Friday afternoon. The Person they had depended on to change their life. The one who had given their lives spiritual, psychological, national and ethnic meaning had been killed. They had lived three years with him and their entire view of the world had been changed because they believed in him. He was supposed to be the new king. And now, they had seen him carried off, imprisoned, rejected by the religious leaders and the leaders of the government and finally, killed. Even worse, now that their leader was dead, they had little to look forward to. Either they would return to their hometowns to be pitied or mocked at for their beliefs. Or they might be killed if the religious leaders decided to destroy them too.
By twilight of that Friday, they had hid themselves away. All they had to look back on was their lost hopes, their memory of having backed a loser, their grief about the death of their friend whose bruised body hung shamed on a cross, while they fled like cowards. How could they ever live with themselves? How could they live with their past?
The next day, a Saturday the disciples and relatives of Jesus were faced with depression, doubt, despair and shock? Modern psychologists might call it a post-traumatic depression. On this Saturday, nothing happens. God seems silent. It looks as if Jesus lost. The disciples can only wonder: Is this the day that the Lord has made? They sit huddled in stunned shock and question their faith in Jesus. They can only ask among themselves: "Why did God let such a good person die?"
But then, suddenly – when they least expected it-- they saw the power of God! Jesus was resurrected it. God was in charge at last. All the memories of the worst Friday in their lives –the way they chickened out on Jesus, the suffering of their friend-- was seen in a different light, the light of the Resurrection. No, God did not change their memories. He freed them from the pain of the memories. Christians have immortalized this wonderful change of events in the naming of the three days. That terrible Friday is now called Good Friday because it is the day on which Jesus triumphed by destroying sin and saving the world. For us, Death is forever changed by the memory of that victory.
The three days of Easter remind Christians that God can is always working. Good Friday shows us that Jesus understands suffering and loved us enough to die for us. Holy Saturday shows us that all God's people have moments –some as short as a day, some as long as years-- when they feel lost and confused about God's actions. But Resurrection Sunday shows us that no matter how devastating our loss, God is with us, changing and giving life to all who have put their trust in him.
For the rest of their lives, the disciples remembered those three days with joy and courage. They did not go about feeling oppressed by the memories of those harsh and cruel events. The joy of the resurrection showed them God's power over death, sin, and pain.
Now when we read the Bible, we see how those memories were transformed. The disciples didn't hide from those memories any more. The memories had no power to hurt them or to destroy their life. Even Peter, who betrayed Jesus, could face himself and move on. His letters in the Bible show that not only did he know that Jesus loved him but that Jesus had a work for him to do.
We must remember that God did not create memory to be a storehouse of all our faults, embarrassments and error. Memory was created to store wonderful things, to help guide us by being the reservoir of our experience. Memory reminds us of the many blessings we have experienced. And it helps us share the wonderful kindness of God. May God remove unforgiveness, resentment and hurt from our memories and fill our minds and hearts with love, joy, hope, confidence and hope.
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