Tuesday, October 26, 2010


For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.
- Job 5:18

Funerals are curious events. In the best of situations, they are celebrations of a beautiful life well lived, now concluded. In the worst, they are full of mourning for a life of regret with no further opportunity for redemption. In most cases, they are some combination of the two. I have never known a life lived without regret. And I have never known a life that was completely void of beauty. But the one thing all concluded lives have in common is that they inhabit the past.

The past is a monstrous thing. It has its own gravity. And it is ridiculously difficult to escape. I say "ridiculously" difficult because it seems that the past is by definition something that should fall behind us as we move through life. The human race however, has the disturbingly beautiful gift of memory. We are keepers of moments adrift on a sea of time, capable of somehow capturing time and carrying it with us as we move through it.

I can only believe this is part of what God created us to be. Over and over we are called to remember in the scriptures. Do this in remembrance of me," says Jesus at the Passover meal before his crucifixion. God says to his people, "Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there." Sadly, even this seems damaged by the Fall. Our memories last only until death comes to take them from us. Then we ourselves return to dust, held in the memory of Christ who knows all and forgets none who are his, one day to be fully reborn in the world unbroken.

In the meantime, I carry a broken past with me. It is full of snakes and dead things. There is much beauty too, but never without evidence of the rot and ruin folded into this world. And that brings me back to funerals... and scabs.

I shook the hand of a former friend who hurt me deeply at the funeral of a friend. The memories of the wounds he inflicted boiled to the front of my mind, but I tried to ignore them. In spite of my best efforts, it was only a short time before all those memories were screaming for me to pull them out and play with them.

Memories are like scabs in that way. They're fine as long as you forget about them. As soon as they come to mind, you are beset with the irresistible urge to pick at them. So I did. We delighted together for a while; they for the attention, and I for the self-gratification. Then they began to bleed. By the time I left them alone it was too late. They were swollen and painful and I was left to clean up the mess. I should have ignored them.

It's hard to remember that scabs and memories are intended to help the healing process. They harden and protect the soft layer of skin regenerating below. Picking at them only makes things worse. It lengthens the healing process and makes the scars uglier. They will soften and fall away in their own time if left to God's timing. Scabs. Memories. Even this life itself. And some day the healing will be complete.