The enigma of memories

Published 10:46 pm Friday, May 23, 2014

By Chris Surber

It’s interesting to me that we put so much stock in memory. When witnesses are seated on a stand in a courtroom, they are usually asked what they remember about the events in question. Lovers place unusually high stock in the memory of their beloved. To forget an anniversary or a birthday is tantamount to betrayal in the hearts of some.

But even neuroscientists are uncertain how memory works. Even with years of inquiry and the advances of modern technology, we are not able to duplicate with any accuracy the intricacies of how the mind captures and retains memories.


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We don’t know how memory works, but we know our memories work on us. Occasionally the smell of just the right variety of freshly cut grass takes me back in time to age 11 on the soccer fields of Modesto, Calif., where I grew up. The scent triggers a memory, and I am instantaneously sucked through a time portal and find myself feeling the feelings of childhood.

What does that for you? Is it the feeling of your fingers rubbing an old leather jacket you keep tucked away in a closet that takes you back to just before your son left for basic training before being carried away to a faraway land from which he did not return? Is it the sight of your long-departed princess in a framed picture of a petite, beautiful ballerina?

Memory is mysterious. No science can adequately explain how it works or why our memories are so important to us, but there is no question that they are.

Our memories are like the sacraments of daily life. Into them, God pours the divine dreamlike magic of meaning.

The memories of painful things are filled with the hope of God’s love that carried me through those times. The memories of lovely, enchanted times fill me with the courage to keep living, so I can look forward to difficulties passing and joy remaining.

Our memories are like strings of fabric God uses to weave the tapestry of our lives. Every polychrome memory is a piece of multicolor string the Weaver is weaving in our life. Only He can see how it all fits together. But one day, He will reveal the full tapestry, and we will understand both why He allowed us to suffer and why He gave us joy.

I like the way one poet put it: “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.”

Memories are enigmatic and mysterious. They are the greatest treasures we possess. They are the stuff of dreams and magic — impressed upon our souls by the hammer of God’s shaping.

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at