Memory and Faith

Edith Reitsema, from English L'Abri,considers the relationship between memory and faith. She asks two key questions:

1. What should we do with our memories? What role should they play in our lives?
2. How can we allow our memories to influence our lives positively for the future? How can difficult memories become the key that unlocks the door to our future?

In this thoughtful talk, using writings from Holocaust survivors and the example of Joseph's time in slavery in Egypt, Edith considers different approaches that can be taken to our memories, particularly those of difficult events. She considers how we can resolve difficult memories with God's help and move on into His purposes for our life.

Quotes used in the talk

Eli Wiesel, From the Kingdom of Memory:

“I have tried to keep memory alive, … I have tried to fight those who would forget. Because if we forget, we are guilty, we are accomplices. The memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil. That the memory of death will serve as a shield against death, this I must believe. I must believe it in order to go on. Hope can be given to me only by another human being. Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures. Peace is a very special gift – it is our gift to each other. We remember Auschwitz and all that it symbolises because we believe that, in spite of the past and its horrors, the world is worthy of salvation. And salvation, like redemption, can be found only in memory.”

Hannah Arendt, Jewish philosopher. Eichmann in Jerusalem.

Corrie ten Boom. In My Father’s House – the years before The Hiding Place:

“Today, I know that memories are the key not to the past but to the future. I know that the experiences of our lives, when we let God use them, become the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work he will give us to do.”

Dan B. Allander, The Healing Path:

“Healing in this life is not the resolution of our past. It is the use of our past to draw us into deeper relationship with God and his purposes for our lives.”

Some quotes from Edith Reitsema

“Is memory sufficient to prevent evil from repeating itself?”

“Our memories give us a sense of control of our past. The future is a vague unknown. While we at least can say something of our past – we might not fully be able to understand it – but we can say something of the past. However, for most of us the meaning of our lives will not be found until we risk moving out of our supposed realm of memories to looking at the future.”

“People need to learn to unpack their hearts with words.”

© 2006 Edith Reitsema
This talk is provided here by the kind permission of the speaker and Calvary Evangelical Church, Brighton, where this talk is available as a part of their series of bethinking talks. The talk was given on the campus of Sussex University, in association with the Christian Union.