from Rachel: The Library in Your Mind

Pour yourself a cup of coffee (ha!) and turn to Psalm 103. What did the psalmist say to his soul in verse 2?

“Bless the Lord
“Forget none of His benefits”

What do you think makes the difference between the memories becoming friends or foes?

“Which ones we dwell on, what effect they have on us, if they mislead us, speak unnecessarily painful truth, or speak gracious, helpful truth.”

On the books pictured, write some key words to represent some of your most vivid, shaping memories. Below the books, write what kind of self-talk you’ve attached to the memory.

“Mom and Dad
“Crispin, Canny and puppies
“Grandma & Grandpa / Grandma & Aunt Betty
“Andrea, Ellen, Alissa, Bridget, Noel…
Happy, nearly-ideal childhood
“Don’t be like Sara Lee
Oh no! Am I? How am I? How am I not?
“Toys given away (and flushed pacifier)
I must hold on tightly to my stuff. Once something is gone, you never see it again.

Is what you say to yourself, especially the painful memories, destructive or constructive?

“Destructive: stuff
“Sarah Lee? Some of each”

Does your self talk make the memory more powerful or strip it of its power?

“More powerful”

List below the benefits of God that the psalmist noted to his soul in Psalm 103.

Verse 3: “forgive sins, heals diseases”
Verse 4: “redeems life, crowns with love and compassion”
Verse 5: “satisfies desires, renews youth”

Can you think of a painful memory that reminds you of God’s benefits? Describe and note which benefit verses above best applies.

“I suppose that verse 5 would answer the toy incident, but it just feels like empty words in a vain effort.”

Isaiah 61:3 shows what God can do with painful memories. Write on the bins in your thought closet is the meaning God can give to even your hardest memories.

He will give me “a crown of beauty,” instead of ashes.
He will give me the “oil of gladness,” instead of morning.
He will give a “garment of praise,” instead of a spirit of despair.

In the space below, write some graffiti to describe God’s benefits. Note memories, realities – anything that helps you remember God’s benefits.

“health, husband, son, friends, parents, extended family, house, car, van, toys, stuff, clothes, food, plenty – I am richly blessed.”

Dearest Rachel –

I apologize for the rueful chuckle at the beginning of this transcription; I know how much you hated coffee – being able to perceive the flavor in parts per million, to know when you didn’t like something that might contain even the slightest traces of the stuff – so the suggestion of it being a beverage to accompany your going over the books of memories in your thought closet just strikes me as ironically funny.

That aside, I confess to not recognizing everything on your library shelf. Oh, I remember you and your folks talking about the dogs your mom (and later, your dad) raised together, and how they became your older siblings, but apart from Ellen, I recall very little about your friends. You told me some of the stories once or twice upon a time, but those are so much dimmer, since they aren’t my own memories. I keep thinking that one of these names actually belonged to someone who ended up making fun of you in later years, to be honest; but I may be confusing her with a completely different person. In any event, those books were never written in real life, so I can’t crack them open and refresh my memory at this point.

And of course, your need to keep everything was based in having lost a thing or two back when you were so young; you never wanted to go through that trauma of loss – or discovery of loss, I’m not entirely sure which – again. Even the scriptures attempting to reassure you that God satisfies all our needs (and makes us feel young again, as if you needed to be restored to youth) struck you as hollow in comparison to whatever actual losses you felt the need to prevent.

He satisfies ·me [or you] with good things [L as long as you live; or according to your desires]
    and ·makes me young again [L renews your youth], like the eagle [Is. 40:31].

Psalm 103:5, Expanded Bible

How you would have fought against the idea of bringing Jan in to do what had to be done in order to render this house as tidy as it is now – and how I would have been willing to live with that for the rest of my days, if it meant you were still here with me! For my part, however, losing you was the one major trauma; after that, losing any of the other stuff was so minor in comparison – what’s this thing or that in comparison to your being gone?

To be fair, I find myself almost agreeing with you about that verse in this aspect, especially when overlaid with Proverbs 20:22

When a man finds a wife, he finds something good.
It shows that the Lord ·is pleased with [favors] him.

Proverbs 20:22, Expanded Bible

Yes, He gave me something good – which checks out against both verses – but then, in His infinite but inexplicable wisdom, He took you away. Does this negate the verse from Psalms? Does it mean He is no longer pleased with me? If the latter, what did I do to displease Him, and how do I recover His favor? These thoughts lead me down a rabbit hole I’m not sure I want to follow.

All I can do for now is to wait for the year of the Lord’s favor spoken of in Isaiah 61 (hoping that it hasn’t passed me by, and I missed it), when He would replace those painful memories with His new blessings. I try to remind myself that it isn’t as if I’m explicitly promised any such this, so as to keep expectations low, but these prophecies certainly look like promises, don’t they?

For now though, honey, remind me of the blessings that I still have, and keep me from focusing too much on what I don’t anymore. Keep your eye on me, and wish me luck – I’m still going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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