What are memories?
Memories are mental representations of the past that can contain thoughts and/or images. We may call to mind memories with conscious effort (through thinking, reading, or looking at photographs) or, without effort (brought forth by a situation, smell, or emotion occurring in the present which is somehow connected to the event in the past).
How can our memories be a gateway to spiritual growth?
Remembering the past can be a powerful gateway to growth in our relationship with God, especially when we reflect on memories of times when we experienced God’s presence. Maybe it was a moment when we felt joyful, grateful, or blessed by God in some way. Or maybe it was a time that was painful or difficult, but in which we saw God at work in our lives. In her book, “The Way of Discernment“, Elizabeth Liebert says that spending time in stillness, bringing to mind our memories of God’s presence can provide two gifts: “it reviews our past experiences, providing wisdom for present decisions, and it helps us experience our life as held and surrounded by grace”. She also reminds us that “memory has an intrinsic relationship to hope in the future”.
How can I put this into practice in my life?
The following steps (from page 56 of Elizabeth Liebert’s book) provide an approach to discernment and decision-making in which we can use prayer and journaling about a memory. Consider using this practice next time you’re facing an important decision:
- Prepare yourself to listen to the wisdom brought to you through your memory by becoming still — outside and inside. Gently noticing your breathing may help you come to a deep quiet. Take as much time as necessary to come to this place of quiet.
- Offer this time of remembering to God. Ask God to speak to you through your memories, and tell God of your desire to be available to God through them.
- As you think of the decision facing you, allow your memory to surface a particularly graced event or period in your life. The memory may but need not directly resemble the issue you face at this moment. Relive that event or period and remember it in all its textures.
- Notice how God was “laboring” on your behalf during that time. Notice, too, how you responded. Remember the grace of the moment. Capture in your journal the highlights of the grace and your response.
- Notice the similarities and contrasts between your experience then and your issue now. Record the salient points in your journal.
- As you relive that graced moment in your past, examine what it suggests about the decision before you now, thanking God for God’s constancy.
Where can I learn more about the wisdom contained within my memories?
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