As a minister, I’ve attended a lot of funerals through the years. One feature common to all is the sharing of memories between family and friends. Often, visitations will feature slide shows, videos, memorabilia, and photos of the departed.

Memories, especially with the grieving, are a bridge between past, present and future. Long after our friends and family are gone, we still remember events, comments, and moments as if we were still experiencing them.

As we get older, we sometimes romanticize the memories, recalling only the best parts, or filtering out the worst parts. We sometimes remember the same things over and over. Sometimes the memories stay in our minds, and we withdraw into that place, and although nobody else can enter that place, those who live there seem content.

Using our memories, we sometimes judge the present by the past. Memories of long-ago are altered to suit our current thinking. Rather than reflecting what really happened, we remember things how we wish they happened. The Israelites were guilty of this after they left Egyptian bondage. In Numbers 11.4-6, they complained, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” “Free” fish? They conveniently forgot they were slaves! Nothing was free!

This makes me wonder about how memory will work in eternity. After Jesus returns and gathers his people home, how will we remember things? I think the apostle Paul gives us a hint. He said there is coming a time when “I will know fully, just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13.12). I believe he was talking about heaven. 

I imagine heaven as being a place not of perfect memory, but of perfected memories. Not complete recollection, but a proper understanding of what we do recall. Even what we consider to be bad memories will be put into perspective so that we understand, appreciate, and even rejoice in them.

Like so many other things in human existence, memory is imperfect. That doesn’t mean it’s unimportant or something to be avoided. Far from it. 

By all means, build memories. Build good memories. Share your memories. Use your memories, good or bad. Learn from your memories. Thank God for your capacity to remember, and for the memories you have. 

God gives us memory as a way of offering hope. As Jeremiah said, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope” (Lamentations 3.21).