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A Slice Of Life To Go is an online Christian blog written by Todd Thompson. It encourages people to see the beauty in ordinary moments and to know God’s unconditional, unfailing love in everyday life.

Memory

April 30th, 2007

Fox News reported last October that Akira Haraguchi, a Japanese mental health counselor, broke his own world record by reciting pi to 100,000 decimal places from memory. The 60-year old man needed 16 hours to do it.

In mathematical terms, pi is “a physical constant defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter”. It’s usually written out to 3.141, just three decimal places. Yet theoretically, there is no limit to the number of decimals it can be written to.

Being one who is mathematically challenged and believes the handheld calculator is right up there with fire and the wheel as significant in human history, several thoughts come to mind.

First…why?

Second…really. Why?

Third…”mental health counselor” and memorizing 100,000 digits don’t seem to go together.

Finally, the ability of the human mind. The most advanced computer on earth is like a Commodore 64 compared to our God-created brain. Some scientists speculate we use less than 2% of our brain’s capacity. Read the newspaper accounts of the wacko things some people do and 2% seems like a high estimate. Regardless, we’re all underachievers when it comes to using our brain.

I was thinking about Mr. Haraguchi’s feat of reciting 100,000 decimals and said to myself, “There’s no way I could remember a list that long.”

Maybe so. Yet I don’t seem to have trouble remembering long lists of other things.

Like the wrongs done to me by other people.

And I suspect I’m not alone.

Why is it that many of us can’t remember five items on a grocery list but we can recall in detail how we’ve been hurt by others over the years?

We’re fallen people. We hurt others and others hurt us. That’s life in a broken world. It took God’s intervention to give us a way to break that cycle. It goes something like this…

God’s perfect. We’re not. Our sin separated us from God. We can’t bridge that gap on our own. So Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, God forgives our sins. In turn, God instructs us to “forgive others as we have been forgiven”. That means forgiving with a willing heart. Or as Lewis Smedes so beautifully put it, “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.” 

God says, “Forgive one another as I have forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13). He says when He forgives us that He “separates our sins from us as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).  

So how does God forgive? He forgives and forgets. 

Not easy for fallen people like us to do. We may forgive, or at least try to. But there’s something in us that is loathe to forget. It’s as though we take the forgiven hurt and bury it in the back corner of our mind, but before walking away we pound a stake to mark the memory in case we want to dig it up again.

When we choose to repeatedly dig up the memories of wrongs done to us, either to satisfy our desire for revenge or to avoid taking personal responsibility for our own failures, we don’t allow God the opportunity to grow anything good from the pain.

Worse, if we hang on to our hurt long enough, it becomes our identity. I know people who’ve chosen to allow a wrong suffered 20 years ago to define their existence. They have chosen to be defined by their pain instead of experiencing the freedom of forgiveness. And it is a choice. When we dig up the memory of a wrong done to us, we’re the one holding the shovel.

There’s nothing easy about this. It is tearful, agonizing work. When Jesus said we need to forgive our brother 70 x 7, I think it’s because He understands that forgiveness is a process. When painful memories come to mind, we forgive. Again. Then give the pain back to the sovereignty of God. We give our pain back to God because He is the only One capable of bringing something good from it. When we trust God with our pain, it will never be for free. In His time, He makes all things beautiful.

Until that happens for you and me, let’s at least do our best to leave the shovel alone. If we can just stop turning the dirt over, God will have a chance to grow something good.

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” – Ephesians 4:31-32