Why Memory Work is So Very Important

“Thence entered I the recesses of my memory, those manifold and spacious chambers, wonderfully furnished with innumerable stores; and I considered, and stood aghast.” —St. Augustine of Hippo

(photo: Frederic Leighton, “Memories”, 1883)

I haven’t posted much lately on the Register blog, and I regret that. I love writing for the Register and I love reaching out to my readers.

They – and you – aren’t the problem.

The problem is me.

I’ve been in a slump. Not really a writing slump, but a “putting it out in public” slump. In actuality, I’ve been working my…fingers…off. I’ve been working on a project that is lengthy, taking a huge amount of memory work, and it’s eating me alive, so to speak.

The project is a book, and it will soon go public. Until the manuscript and title are finalized and the release has been set, I can’t give you too many details. Suffice to say that’s I believe it’s a monumental work, that it will do much good for many people and that God has specifically called me to write it.

Sounds pompous perhaps, but it’s true. And, by the way, I went into this kicking and screaming – mostly at God – because I knew what I was committing myself to, and I knew it would be very, very difficult. Not difficult as in not being able to find the right word in the thesaurus, but difficult as in going deep inside myself and looking at things I’ve not looked at for many years.

It requires memory work.

By “memory work,” I mean that the writing of this book requires me to go back in time – all the way to when I was a small child – and to stand face-to-face with memories that I thought I’d never have to face again. They aren’t pretty.

One by one, I’m going through the memories, evaluating each and weighing it for its effect on me and its value to the project. That is no easy task, let me tell you. On the other hand, I’m eager to do it (at least now that I’m convinced its God’s will) and I’m finding it exceptionally beneficial.

It’s been a holy, grace-filled, and gift-laden time for me.

Memory work involves looking back, appreciating the moment, and discerning what it is God was, and often still is, saying through every circumstance. As you might imagine, God has been speaking a lot to me lately; volumes, as a matter of fact.

And I’ve been listening, and praying, and appreciating, and writing, writing, writing.

That’s left little energy – physically, emotionally, or spiritually – to write about anything else. So, I’ve been fairly quiet in the public sphere. Still, I wouldn’t trade these past months or the ones that lie ahead for all the treasures of the earth.

I’m seeing now that memory work is vital, not just to me, but to all of us. There is so much to be learned about ourselves, about others, and above all, about God’s providence when we review all that’s transpired over our lifetimes. That can only be done by prayerfully looking back and revisiting each moment as it was given to us and as we own it now.

I feel a kinship with St. Augustine as he was writing his Confessions.

Thence entered I the recesses of my memory, those manifold and spacious chambers, wonderfully furnished with innumerable stores; and I considered, and stood aghast...

(St. Augustine. Confessions Book XIII)

The difference is that St. Augustine had been looking back on things he had done of his own accord. I’m looking back on things done to me of someone else’s accord. In both cases, God’s goodness, mercy, and wisdom has shown through.

I would never have seen or experienced that if I’d not embarked on this journey of memory work.