"Memory... is the diary that we all carry about with us."
Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest"
Pressing my nose against the glass, I glared at the plenty. Their presence was within arm's reach, yet untouchable through the clear, clean shield. Chocolates, pastries, cakes, candies, pies, rolls. All looked divinely created. The scent, undaunted by the glass case, seemed from heaven. The dream of taking home such sweets surged through my eight year old imagination. Jubilation!
As I peered through the glass, my heart pounded for the passing pleasure of a chocolate eclair. My favorite. And my father's. Thankfully. So, anytime a shopping trip to Rich's department store in Atlanta was deemed by my mother as a definite Saturday diversion, I knew my father would, just before leaving, stop by the store bakery and reward us for our patience and fortitude.
I loved inhaling that distinct scent that wafted through the white bakery box. I could not wait to get home, where Daddy and I would sit and enjoy our eclairs together. The taste of the chocolate icing and the flaky, fresh crust is now lodged in my temporal lobe. It seems unforgettable. Which explains my undeniable weakness for pastries, which I must presently curb, when possible.
We all have those special sweet shop memories. The delights of dining, feasting, on our favorite confection. Their tacky presence in our brains brings us blessing when we ponder their unique flavor and unforgettable smell.
We are designed, wired, by our Creator, to remember. To not forget. To absorb our experiences. To take in our perceptions. To have them unite and form in our fleshly tabernacles attitude and purpose.
Attitude of self. Of life. Of others. Of God.
Purpose. Of being. Of belonging. Of reason.
Attitude and purpose. Joined together. Come from a lifetime of moments.
Here it is that our personal "what if's" begin. What if our memories, unlike those from the Rich's bakery, are not so sweet? What if our memories are full of pain, sorrow, suffering, confusion, hurt, abuse? What if our memories hold armfuls of choice words that still echo, making us cringe, condemned, holding us prisoner in a cataclysmic state? What if our memories are our own private world of pain?
In Biblical history, one suffered such a private world. His life was an epitome of Jewish zeal and perfection. A Pharisee of Pharisees. A leader of leaders. A man setting the example for God's chosen people.
Until, . . . that bright and shining moment shocked suddenly, and his world was struck down. And destroyed. Completely vanished. Everything. Except the memories.
The Apostle Paul was never the same after his trip on the Damascus Road. He had seen Jesus. Heard Him. Believed Him. Knew the Lord's forgiveness.
And the greatest persecutor of the church of the living God was never the same again. Saul turned. Walked away. Became Paul. And our world has never been the same again.
What great doctrine, what inspired words of the Holy Spirit spoke through Paul, as he penned most of the books of the New Testament.
Yet, in Paul's still moments, agony collided with joy. Memories clung. Past sin collided with present grace. The sights and sounds of stonings, tortures, floggings of the innocent remained. Echoed. Resounded. Stood.
And were it not for Paul's great walk with God, the Apostle could have crumbled under the stress of his past.
But, . . .
God had not only saved Paul's life from sin and chaos, but also, Christ had brought healing to his harrowed mind. And though Satan longed to hold Paul in condemnation and suppress his new voice, a voice that proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul, through grace, found victory. Vicious memories the enemy meant for death, God used for life.
In Romans 8:1-2 Paul wrote, "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death." Paul knew the sanctifying power of salvation. Utter cleansing. Total healing. Real life.
And though the struggle and power of distressing memories were troubling, the power of Christ stood greater against their chained voices, giving Paul the liberty to proclaim, "Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us" (Philippians 3:13-14).
Sour became sweet. Grief turned peace. For Paul. For us. For we, too, deal with anguish. With the not-so-nice thoughts of our pasts. Whether we have a few unpleasant experiences, or whether our lives were, or perhaps are, full of chaos and abuse, God is able, my dear friends, to heal. The Prince of Peace can reach your heart today, right where you are, and give you joy despite the many sorrows you carry.
I have carried sorrows. My own dear father, with whom I shared eclairs, who taught me to tie my shoes, who took me to church, whose arms made me safe, whose love I knew, passed away when I was twelve. My loss sent me into a spiral of confusion and pain.
Dear friends, I am nothing but a product of God's grace. Of Christ's life-giving, nail-scarred hand that reaches down to the deepest grief and need and pulls the undeserving out of a vicious pit. How thankful I am to know Jesus! I can write not because of personal resilience. No, I write because of the work of Christ in my life!
And if today you are carrying sorrow, aching memories; if now your soul is troubled by past sin, old grief, recurring regrets, know this: God does not respect one person above another. What He has done for me and so many others, He will most surely do for you. The grace God gave to the Apostle Paul can also be yours. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
Turn your eyes to Christ. Give your whole self to Him. Let God be the God of your past, present, and future. You, my dear friend, will never be the same again.