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