Remembering and Forgetting

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 3:13-14

The growth process of Life is a process of forgetting and remembering. Consequently, if we hold on to the things which we are to forget and let go of those that are essential for us to remember, then our growth can be become paralyzed. The question is how do we discern the difference.

The above verses were the foundation of our reflection before returning to missions. We have served in this same area before. We came back to this ministry with many good and bad memories from our experiences in the past. They are both capable of holding us back if we don’t discern which ones to forget. Some bad memories can help us become better people and some good memories can hold us back from doing better and greater things with our lives. Now, God was calling to do something new and we needed to decide what to forget and what to remember.

Our first experience working with the street children was a very positive experience. We had a wonderful team and we developed a working philosophy that responded to the needs of the homeless at that particular time. The children and teens were open and receptive to us. They recognized our presence as a spiritual force to help them make the transition out of the streets. This was exactly our goal then. In our minds, we have this wonderful image of our past experience and how much of it based on reality, we can never tell. Nevertheless, Mary and I would describe it as one of the best times of our lives. However, it would be mistake to hold on these memories and attempt to recreate them in our present situation. Many things have changed. We cannot impose the same working philosophy in our ministry as we did twenty years ago. The children and teens are different. Society has changed. We have changed. We remember the good things of the past, but we need to forget them as well. We remember them to remind ourselves where we came from, but we need to forget them so that we don’t try to recreate the past in the present. The present holds something new for us.

No experience in life is complete without bad experiences. We look back in the past and remember mostly good times because we want to forget the bad times. I don’t even feel like writing about them at this moment. However, I do remember them vividly. I wish that by not talking about them maybe they will go away. Unfortunately, they are still lurking somewhere in my past and waiting for the opportunity to come out and instill fear in my heart. I have come to realize that maybe I should not forget these moments and put them in their context. They cannot harm me. I am still here. This means these negative experiences did not hinder me from being where I am today. More important than this, God has helped me overcome these moments. It does not mean that I escaped the pain and suffering which is part and parcel of a negative experience. However, they lack the power to destroy the person that God wants me to become. This is the part I need to remember. I cannot remember this without recalling the negative experiences. I had the privilege of knowing some wonderful people who suffered in the concentration camps during the war. They remember the horrific experience vividly, but in their remembering, they reveal a strength that is able to overcome all the odds. They have the courage to remember because of this strength and it is the same strength that makes them move to conquer greater victories in life.

Our children and teens are not living in the streets because they are rebellious or poor. They are in the streets because of a trauma they experienced. Most of them want to forget this. They want to just remember the good times and they attempt to recreate the good times through artificial means. Yesterday, Igor shared with us about his parents for the first time. He said that he has no recollection of his father. He has never even seen the picture of his father. As for his mother, he said that he remembers her clearly even though he was eight years old when she was murdered. He remembers every detail of her face. He also remembers the details of his life in the streets and the times he spent in detention centers. He remembers the harsh and negative words spoken to him. He remembers the looks people gave him when he walked in a store. He remembers the rejection and the hatred. He remembers meeting us in the streets. He remembers the things we said to him. He remembers too many things. Some of them might become a burden for him to live in the present and move towards to future. He needs to forget some things and only remember those things that are necessary for his growth.