I spent a good chunk of my early twenties regretting two days: an afternoon at a sushi restaurant and a night I spent alone watching Batman at the movie theater inside of the mall.
I didn’t realize it, but all those years I spent driving around my hometown arguing with God, I was trying to figure out a way to convince Him to turn back time. I knew if He would just let me do them over I could fix everything.
It wasn’t until last week with my forearms resting on a picnic table, young eyes and beautiful faces staring at me that I finally admitted the truth.
That day in the sushi restaurant and that night in the movie theater could no longer be my God. They could not be the thing I lived for–the thing that I leaned on to save my life any longer.
Later in the week I cried on the baking aisle at Kroger because I realized that until we decide to let go of those moments that we’re convinced changed everything, we will spend our entire lives making idols out of a day on a calendar that cannot offer you anything for your future.
Constantly looking at the past, at a moment, a hurt, a grief, a thing we cannot forgive–in ourselves or someone else– eventually makes it our God. When we obsessively expect or want something from it, analyze it in hopes for some kind of redemption or some kind of answer, we begin to worship it. When we obsessively believe that it will fix everything, if we get an answer or get “closure” from that moment, we make it our God.
Those two moments are ones I couldn’t forgive myself for. They are also moments I could not forgive someone else for. Within them were layered years of trust issues and excuses for why freedom was out of my reach. But anything that keeps you from freedom is your God. Anything that you are so locked into, given over to so fully, anything that has permission to take control of you without your ability to have yourself back–that thing is your God.
For me they were my trust issues, that came with seeing that birthday bag hidden at the end of that table, and the words said to me when I was wearing that blue jacket. They became my God because I was so trapped in how they broke my heart. I gave them my mind, my heart, my trust. If they had gone differently, oh how my life would have turned out to be something else to behold.
When memories are our God, we give them our hearts, our best years of forgiveness and trust. Back when I was young and dumb, back before I knew that people were so cruel.
We think our wisdom and better understanding of the world is what took our ability to just hand out trust and forgiveness, but really it was our idolatry of our memories. If we were honest, we’ve spent our years fixated, worshipping days of our lives, thinking that if we could get them back they would heal the deepest parts of our souls.
We have given credit where it is not due and thought if this day had not happened, I would be better than I am right now.
We exalt hours, minutes, or seconds; we worship the hands of the clock. We think it was moments that broke us, time that heals us, and will be at-first-sight seconds that save us.
But time is just a measure, a tool, a thing. If we could finally invent the time machine we’ve all been praying for, I’m convinced that none of us would be happier, healthier, better off. Because it would not change our hearts; we could change a moment, but we could not change what got us there.
Because everything that built up to that moment would not have changed. It’s cause and effect, my dear. That moment was built on a thousand other little things that made it what it was. The second you realize that is the second you might finally learn to forgive. Because the human heart is far more complicated that just one passing moment. We must stop holding it inside a prison of one split second, one long day, one complicated year.
Time and your memories are too small to be your God; they are too far gone to fix you, too fleeting to save you.
But if they hold your trust, have stolen your forgiveness, trapped your joy–you’ve made them your God.
If you’ve used words that sound something like: “But you don’t know what happened to me”, that moment, that sixty seconds, that day, that stretch of the earth spinning of the earth around the sun– that became your God.
It became the thing that you gave permission to break and name you. And if you’re honest it’s the thing you believe, if you could get it back, would be able to save you.
There’s a baking aisle in Kroger and it’s where I decided that the calendar wasn’t the thing I wanted to wake up next to every morning. I didn’t want to grow old with and give everything to a day or a year I had circled in red.
It’s where God became God again and time and its memories became a thing I finally stopped trying to change.
7 thoughts on “When Memories are Our God”
wow. thank you for this.
Holy cow, everything you wrote in this blog is exactly what I’ve been trying to find myself. Though those years are long behind you (and also me), it’s cool how well you worded it with such ease. I like how you mentioned anything we hold onto so dearly becomes our God. It’s so incredibly true and sad, and I see it everywhere on my college campus. People are lost, they feel lost. I used to feel that way too, and now I’m beginning to think that feeling that way is a sort of cruel “right of passage” for young adults everywhere in America (and the world over as well). Capitalism is important, but I believe we should get rid of this notion of consumerism. Of course, big businesses are in the “business” to have consumers. This also goes for the pharmaceutical companies. They don’t much care for anyone’s “happiness”. To them, we are all just numbers; insignificant. But the truth is like how you portrayed it in the beginning of the post; that man with the red backpack had a life with his wife at one point. They made and created memories together. We’re all more than just the sum of our workload. Great piece Ashlin! You definitely gained a new follower.
Awesome piece. We cleave ourselves to time more than we cleave ourselves to God; and that’s something I do daily.