Merciful memories

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I spent the morning of my wedding day ranting and raving. Where were my brothers? They were supposed to usher. (Delayed at the hotel, but they did get there in time.) Where was the tape recorder to record the service? (My husband-to-be had it and set it up.) Why aren't the flowers here? (They came.)

Every small thing seemed so much larger that day. Things that ordinarily wouldn't bother me did. Looking back, it's embarrassing. I lost sight of the real purpose of the day and got caught up in irrational emotionalism. I was more like the Bride of Frankenstein than the bride of my childhood dreams.

I'm so grateful to my sister, who had to listen to my tantrum, for having a convenient memory. She claims to have no recollection of what I said and only remembers the beauty of the event and how funny it was to watch me running to the chapel (convinced I was late), my gown streaming behind me.

Significant moments can make us vulnerable to heightened dramatic reaction. When I remember my own or other people's behavior during major life events, I try to splice out of my mental video anything less than the best. This passage from the Bible helps: "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).

When reviewing my mental photo album of memories, I like to emphasize "think on these things." I want to fill that album with every sweet and unexpected moment and let go of everything else.

But what about seriously distressing events that take root in memory? People can feel justified in holding regrets or grudges, or letting these events separate them from other family members or friends.

When two close friends of mine lost their husbands, we talked about the period before and after as the unfolding of a poorly scripted drama. Events felt surreal, and it was easy to react in a manner that was less than the best we wanted to be.

We tried not to succumb to overly emotional reactions or increased sensitivity about apparently insensitive actions of others. Yet we also didn't avoid or deny our deepest feelings. There were tears, but praying lifted our hearts. A poem by the Monitor's founder Mary Baker Eddy helped:

And o'er earth's troubled, angry sea

I see Christ walk,

And come to me, and tenderly,

Divinely talk.

There are times when it feels like you're adrift in a boat on a stormy sea. The idea of Christ walking on the waves, not submerged in them, is comforting. Then, to think of Christ coming and speaking to us tenderly gives us courage to face what's happening and to keep going forward.

When the disciple Peter stepped out onto the water to walk to Jesus, he got afraid and began to sink. But Jesus didn't allow that to happen. He reached out and caught him (see Matt. 14:23-33).

Memories of someone we love don't have to sink us in a sea of sorrow and hurt. Or into attitudes that divide us from other people. The truth is that everyone has an enduring inheritance of God-qualities. We have compassion, strength, humor, intelligence, always here to benefit us and others.

Reminding ourselves that we have these qualities, and then using them, lightens our load. And reviewing memories of other people's true, honest, just, pure, and lovely qualities is like joining different squares of a quilt together to form a soft blanket.

We can focus on "whatsoever things are true" about those we love. Those merciful memories will remain to comfort, guide, and nurture us. They're an eternal gift.

Articles like this one appear in 13 different languages in the magazine The Herald of Christian Science.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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