What do we do with our hurt and especially our memories of hurt and pain? ‘The End of Memory’ by Miroslav Volf has been a pivotal read for my own processing, and has continued to inform how I think, share, and pray about forgiveness.
One of my favourite quotes from the book is, “being in God frees our lives from the tyranny the unalterable past exercises with the iron fist of time’s irreversibility. God does not take away our past; God gives it back to us – fragments gathered, stories reconfigured, selves truly redeemed, people forever reconciled.”
It is one thing to know that we are called to forgive, but working out how to live in forgiveness, whilst struggling with the unwelcomed pangs, flashbacks, and hurts which can resurface without warning, is often a very complex reality. Volf digs into these questions and more as he processes his own experiences of marginalisation and persecution.
Volf suffered at the hands of his persecutor, and we too, in life, collect hurts and pains, which can take on the form of a shadow in our minds, hearts, and lives – always there, even when we turn our back and try to walk away. How many times must be bend in repentance, asking that God removes the pain and the stain? Volf answers this in an unexpected way. He moves beyond simple piety and Sunday School lessons, and builds a coherent and holistic picture which includes our physical responses and the ways that the brain cycles to work through difficulties, our thought-life, emotions, and our faith. This approach fundamentally makes sense. We are wounded as embodied beings, and so our memory and so too our understanding and praxis of forgiveness need to account for the reality that we are whole beings.
If you want to think more deeply about walking in the way of forgiveness, we recommend this book.