Thursday, November 20, 2008

Having and Heaving

“A time to keep and a time to throw away…”

                        Ecclesiastes 3.6 

The Corners of Our Minds

The Streisand classic, “The Way We Were,” begins with a dud: “Memories, like the corners of my mind…” I suspect her songwriters meant, “in the corners of my mind,” because that’s where memories live. They’re artifacts of events that once commanded center stage. The actual occurrences happen quickly and yield the spotlight to new ones. Their memories don’t leave. They hide in shadowy corners for us to spy in our periphery or unexpectedly stumble across.

If only we could apply Solomon’s counsel about keeping and throwing away to memories—if we actually could choose those worth having and those worth heaving. But we can’t govern memories any better than the events that spawn them. They are what they are, and we should accept that. Memories can, however, be managed. And that’s where Solomon’s wisdom obtains unique relevance. Inability to purge our minds’ corners outright of unwelcome reminders doesn’t prevent us from addressing them one by one, consciously deciding what of each to keep and what to toss.

Core Removal

When I was 10 or so, a nasty boil popped up on my knee. I didn’t mention it to my mother in dread of the undoubtedly painful procedure she’d administer. (She was a nurse before entering ministry and many things that sent other kids to the doctor she treated at home.) The boil grew until wearing pants was unbearable. I had to ‘fess up. Mom glanced at it and ordered me to the kitchen. She sliced a potato, shaved off a bit as a poultice, and bandaged my knee. “Go to bed. You’ll be fine by morning.” I was. The starchy potato had drawn the boil’s poisonous core to the surface. “Now, don’t you wish we’d done this sooner?” Mom asked.

In dealing with pain from our past, love is to memory what potato is to boil. “Love covers over a multitude of sins,” 1 Peter 4.8 tells us. And in 1 Corinthians 13.5-8, Paul says it “keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” A poultice of love is the treatment of choice for bad memory core removal. It goes beneath surface wrongs to counteract underlying victimization, betrayal, despair, and resignation with protection, trust, hope, and perseverance. It turns our thoughts from what evil has done to what love can do. We keep the memory—as we must—but throw away the core causing so much pain.

Mind Renewal

Paul writes, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12.2) What is the world’s pattern of bad memory treatment? Basically, it follows one of two methods: suppression or managing side effects. Unassisted, we try to bury the past; with professional help, we try to live with it. Both methods subscribe to natural logic—they’re both personality-based defense mechanisms. But neither fits the love-driven, unnatural lifestyle Jesus taught because it accepts evil rather than overcomes it. Christ’s followers don’t conform to conventional wisdom; we’re transformed to approach life from an entirely different, typically counterintuitive perspective. We do this by renewing our minds, filtering them of logic’s limited alternatives to infuse them with faith’s infinite possibilities.

There’s a reason why Paul uses the present tense. Mind renewal is a constant, conscious process, not some kind of spiritual conk on the head that induces amnesia. It’s more like waves of faith we release over thoughts about where we are, where we’re going, and where we’ve been. With each fresh surge, memories bob up—some quicker than others. When they do, we apply love that leeches their core poisons. Then it's time we choose what to keep and what to throw away.

I know nothing of Mr. Jones or his methods, but here's a great example of patterns Paul warns against conforming to. Hypnosis doesn't erase memories; it suppresses them. Renewing our minds transforms us to manage memories by applying love to remove their poison.

(Tomorrow: Rending and Mending)


Missy said...

(It's "light the corners of my mind"--heh, heh)

Good post. As always, you manage to come up with an excellent analogy. Love is a strong poultice, indeed.

But something technical I noticed this morning--your feed isn't working. Check your site feed under settings to see if it's turned on. It may take an email to blogger to fix it.


Tim said...

DOH! Now I feel like Phoebe on "Friends," when she said her favorite Elton John song was about the guy on "Who's the Boss?"--"Hold me closer, Tony Danza..."

I'll look into the feed issue pronto.

Thanks, Missy!

Tim said...

Re feed: everything checks out from this end. Missy, if you (or others) continue to have problems, let me know.

Thanks, Tim.

Annette said...


Love this post. The thing that struck me the most is how kind and loving your analogy is regarding the boil on your knee as a child. Sometimes in a religious teaching/discussion, this sort of thing is likened to sin, and our sinful selves. The analogy would be about getting rid of the boil/sin early so that it doesn't fester and make us even more sinful/bad. Your analogy is about filtering our pain through love's power. Interesting turn. I think far too often the rigid, unforgiving God is taught. Your take on life, God and forgiveness is refreshing and He is. Thank you once again for a morning respite.


Tim said...

Annette, I'm with you completely. Some of us believe we need major surgery to cut things out of us, when what's necessary is a poultice to draw out the poison.

A while back, there was a "healing of memories" craze that ran through some high-profile ministries, not too coincidentally with the media hype about "recovered memories," i.e., people unearthing buried trauma through psychotherapy and/or hypnosis. The big "healing" proponents promised more than rectifying the poison in the memories--they claimed they could disappear altogether.

But if we can get rid of these things entirely, whether by cutting them out or magically erasing them, we have to question why the experiences that created such painful recollections were given to us in the first place. When we apply love to harbored, even long buried memories, we can remove the poison yet retain the lessons we learned from the experience. The ugliness goes, but the beauty--the compassion we now feel for similarly abused or misused people, the faith we exercise to overcome evil, etc.--remains.

Thanks, as always, for taking the discussion up another notch!

Jan said...

Came over from Sherry's. . . .I'm amazed at that poultice for the boil. That is a great image about NOT delaying, which sadly is one of my tendencies. I'll be back.

Tim said...

Welcome, Jan--it's great to have you here! And it goes without saying that a friend of Sherry's is a friend worth having. I'm delighted to hear you'll be back and look forward to what you'll bring to our discussions.

I too am a procrastinator, particularly when it comes to dealing with nastier "boils." I know they won't vanish on their own, yet so often I'm no better than when I was 10. I envision some traumatic, ugly process that may hurt more than the pain I presently deal with. It's seldom, if ever the case, though. And a lot of times it's as easy as making a poultice.

More often than not, it ends with me saying, "I wish I'd done this sooner!"

Thanks for the comment. And, again, welcome to Straight-Friendly!


johnmichael said...

I is such a powerful phenomena, all things can be learned and taught with love as motivation.

Tim said...

Hey, John! When Paul says "Love never fails," I think that's exactly what he means. When real love (rather than infatuation, desire, manipulation etc., masquerading as love) enters a situation it never fails to improve it. And, as you say, when we teach and learn what to do because love drives us to do so, it changes us for the better.

Thanks, as always, for the post. And BTW, I truly, truly have enjoyed reading your blog--so honest, so human, and so well written! If you don't mind, I'd like to introduce everyone here to it as well.

Peace and joy,