Receive My Memory

photos evoking memories - photo by sarandy westfall on Unsplash

Memories are important to me. They are the building blocks of the stories I tell myself, my children, and new acquaintances.

I attended elementary school 20 miles outside Los Angeles. The school was small and religious and diverse. Our shared experience in those intimate classrooms made lifelong friends out of me and my classmates.

We are all very different now. Some of us have stayed in the little California town. Some have moved out of state. Others have travelled the world as missionaries or in service to our country. A few have doctorates. A few never finished high school. A handful have trust funds while others struggle to make ends meet. Yet even in all these differences, we love and respect one another. No one else understands us the way we understand each other. If an old classmate visits Seattle, I clear my calendar to get together with that person, and others have done the same for me in other states and even countries.

My old classmate Joe says I’m the keeper of our memories. This is my role in this community. I remember the complicated tag games we created on the playground or how the fence on the north side of the field was always covered with caterpillars in the spring. Or that time Mr. Laramie let us skip our assignments all morning so we could ask questions about God.

These stories remind me who I am. They not only give me value in this community but in the rest of my life as well.

So when St. Ignatius prays, “Lord, receive my memory,” I find this challenging—frightening even.

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, as did my great-grandmother, and I watched their memories of me, their husbands, and their families fade. And I saw my friend, ladened with brain cancer, lose the sharpness that earned her a PhD.

Can I give these memories to God? Can I surrender even these treasured stories to him?

And yet…

It is God who gave me these stories, these memories. He gave me vision to see the world in a particular way. To see a story in even the most mundane of moments.

All was from God in the first place.

I would never have these stories were it not for God.

So I pray as St. Ignatius, that “all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.”

There is a deep sense of gratitude when surrendering these memories to God. Gratitude that he has given me these stories, but also that I am a part of his story—and he is my story.

I am who I am because of him.

Photo by Sarandy Westfall on Unsplash.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the video link. I found it really interesting. On a personal level, I relate more to the image of God as masculine. This video provided new information that makes a lot of sense.

  2. Thanks Shemaiah. Receive my memory? Offering one’s memory in whatever shape it may be is not a futile exercise after all. The Giver of the memory has all the tools to re-activate it and make it even sharper than it has ever been. It is worth reciting the prayer confidently and fearlessly.

  3. While I fully understand that many people find it challenging to give God their memory, I have no problem with it. I was emotionally abused as a child and have repressed most of my childhood. I am who I am now because of my relationship to God and I am beyond grateful to hand over my memory so that He can deal with it!

    • Dee, of course 400 words doesn’t go into the depth of my memory but yes, I was emotionally abused as well so I understand this particular memory issue. I love your last line “I am beyond grateful to hand over my memory so that He can deal with it!” Know I shouted AMEN from my computer. Peace be with you.

  4. Thank you Shemaiah. I am very proud of my good memory and I always owned it. I feel so ashamed of myself. I very willing returned it to God and asked for His forgiveness. All I need is to accept His unconditional love and everything will fall into place. Thanks once again.

  5. Your resistance to St. Ignatius Sucipe resonates. I truly feared giving my vibrant health. Like you, I came to the conclusion that this was God’s gift and God in me. Sometimes I still feel a tug of resistance. Now that I’m old, 81, I give God this aging. Simple to say; not easy.

    You are an awesome storyteller. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I have recently been questioning the sincerity with which I pray Suscipe; am I capable oƒ REALLY surrendering so totally to God’s will? Your reflection gives me insight and is consoling. Thanks!
    Alice

  7. Shemaiah, Thank you for your post. About 5 years ago, my local community kindly shared that they noticed some memory issues, and I underwent some testing. I was diagnosed with a mild cognitive impairment, and I go to a memory center about once a year for testing of this condition. At the time I was initially diagnosed, I was kind of in shock, and since my mother had Alzheimer’s Disease, it was a difficult diagnosis to accept. My prayer at that time was the Take, Lord Receive prayer of St. Ignatius. I found it a hard prayer to pray and be sincere in my prayer. However, as I continued to pray, God granted me the grace of acceptance of this impairment. I recommend this prayer to any others facing difficult diagnoses.

  8. Shemaiah, thank you for this touching reflection on memories. I know that in my reflections upon my memories; I discover the gentle touch of the Holy Spirit, the footprints of Jesus walking with me, and the will of the Father unfolding in my life’s journey.

  9. I love what you have written, Shemaiah; thank you! Your words have me considering my own memories and my gratitude for them.

    a small thought: I wonder, if in your writing, you would consider using other than masculine pronouns for our dear God who is bigger than any gender, bigger even than we can imagine. Thanks for considering this.

    Lucy Schultz

    • Thank you for reading my reflection and for your suggestions regarding pronoun use for God. I agree that God is bigger than any gender! Isn’t that wonderful! Pronoun use and even capitalization (or not) is often determined by publisher and rarely has to do with me. I do wish there was a word to encompass the vastness of our Lord but I do feel that using “she” or “they” would move into a political statement that takes away from the focus on God. So I am intentional about using the male pronoun. The best argument I have heard on this subject for continuing to use the male pronoun, even though it does not encompass all we wish was given to me in this video. https://www.prageru.com/video/why-god-is-a-he/

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