An interesting story almost slipped under my radar today. It's about a new discovery that might one day allow scientists to erase painful memories from our brains so that we have no recollection of them. It's being hailed as a way to eventually help addicts overcome their bad habits or to ease the suffering of those who have experienced something so traumatic that they can't seem to escape the agony.
Apparently the scientists have never seen Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the 2004 movie based on exactly this premise. A woman hires a company to erase her memories of her ex-boyfriend. The boyfriend goes on to do the same, only to realize as his memories begin to fade that he doesn't want to lose his past, that he still loves this woman.
In a world bent on around-the-clock happiness, it's easy to see how this discovery might go wrong. Our memories make us who we are. Yes, some of them are incredibly painful, and yet, when we look back on our lives, aren't those painful memories often the very things that lead us to a particular place we need to go or to a particular person. Where do we draw the line on painful memories? An assault? War? Loss of a parent, spouse or child? Loss of a job? Failing a test? It could easily become a slippery slope of could have, should have, would have.
Our memories help define us. They guide our consciences. For better or worse, even bad memories shape our life stories. To erase those moments is to try to rewrite history without knowing what the potential fallout might be.
This week, as we journey with Jesus to Calvary, we can imagine the memories his mother might have wanted to erase, the mistakes the Apostles may have wanted to forget. And yet those memories became the foundation of faith that feeds us to this day. We cannot erase who we are. We cannot pretend we have not made the wrong choices or chosen the wrong paths. We can, however, ask for God's forgiveness and allow him to erase the sins.