I often think of what would happen if we suddenly had access to an affordable form of time travel. You know, the kind in the movies that took us backward or forward in time. I'd throw on my puffy down vest and Levi's with suspenders and head back to, say, 1986 and punch that kid in my neighborhood who was 3 times my size and dared me to do it. I didn't dislike him, no, it was simply one of those moments where I had a chance to make a statement about myself to the other guys in the neighborhood. That I was tough.
I then think through the "after-punch" events and realize I made the right decision.
Maybe I'd go back to junior high, 1990, and instead of playing drums in the school band I'd opt to spend my time doing other things. Let's be realistic, I knew that the ladies loved the guitar (which I had already started learning) and then there was the fact that I had to lug that huge case back and forth every other day. I'm sure there was some life lesson in my time in band, but I've yet to discover it.
Or perhaps I'd go back to that year, the one that flickers in my memory now and then like the flash of a 35mm camera, and undo the damage I did to my wife by not dealing with my baggage. I'd stop past me from fully engaging in denial and blindness to my own stupidity. Perhaps I'd go back and try to stop my parent's divorce, or the car accident I had my senior year in high school, or I'd find my way to my friend's garage that fateful Super Bowl Sunday and pray my presence would be enough to give him hope and take the rifle out of his hands.
Then it sets in: there is no time machine.
So, we must then wrestle with this reality - we are helpless to change those things that are now easily-retrievable memories in our mental hard drive so why does God give us such long and rich memory cells? Why can I see my past indiscretions in living and vivid color? Why can I feel, like the contracting of my stomach lining at an upcoming stressful situation, the very physical effects of an event long past?
Perhaps there is goodness even in our memories, which is why God gave us their use freely and openly until they are depleted by age and our frail brains.
In Exodus 20, before giving the ten commandments, there is an often missed verse:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery. (Ex. 20:1)
The Hebrews and later Israelites reading this, hearing this phrase read aloud, couldn't help going back in their memory. To the day they doubted Moses' leadership. To the time they doubted God's ability to rescue them. To the day they greedily hoarded manna. To the day, oh please don't bring that up, when they worshiped a cow made of gold instead of the God who opened an ocean.
We need our memories, just as they are, because in the end the show us just how good God is to us.
Where he gave us wisdom to save our hides.
Where he gave us forgiveness and grace to repent of our self-driven agendas.
Where he worked the depths of darkness, like clay, into a beautiful masterpiece that gives our life artistry and music beyond our own ability to compose.
I pray that God will heal my longing for the time machine, and instead allow me to see Him present in each of those moments I'd rather forget. Quite honestly, to forget them would be to forget what God means to my story in the first place.