Sometimes I wish I could forget. Memories that haunt like ghoulish apparitions, or some so painful they still take my breath away – are all unwanted guests. Sometimes they hide in closets, other times they party all night, but they remain. God has mercifully removed a lot of junk over the years – bitterness, rage, a truckload or two of selfishness, but He did not take away memory – except for where I parked my car.
When I was a little girl, I was sure Frankenstein was stretched out beneath my bed, waiting for my breath to slow and for sleep to overtake me, then I knew his long green arms would wrap around my body and squeeze the life out of me. Memories can be like monsters or more subtle like gossamer ghosts that whisper behind your ear. I’m back!
You have them too. It’s what drives men to madness or drink. It’s what fills the medicine cabinets with “mother’s helper”: Valium, Ativan, Xanax or a dozen antidepressants. Bad memories can kill us or just distract us. We forget for a little while, but then morning comes, the daylight like razors across your eyes. They’re back.
In some ways, I don’t want to forget who I can be without Jesus – what a cheap vodka hangover feels like, how I felt mad all the time, like a wounded mongrel; the way I had to look away when someone tried to get an honest answer from me. I remember these things…and more.
One reason I don’t want to forget is I’m afraid I’ll cheapen the price that was paid for my freedom. Pride does that. You get washed up, learn how to live not looking over your shoulder, get ahead, way ahead and suddenly Jesus is far off, and we are waving goodbye. He will not chase us, not like the zombies. He just watches, with great compassion and I’m sure a lot of sorrow.
We say we still love Him, but it’s conditional; as long as He stays put, like a friendly uncle.
Lately God has been bringing me people like me, without Jesus. Swollen livers and yellow eyes chained to whiskey. Then there’s heroin – every cell screaming for relief until the soul is swallowed up. A battle rages. Sometimes there is a violent coup. Sometimes it’s a very slow dying, a gasp for air as darkness settles across the barren landscape of addiction. Hopelessness is the devil’s wild card. It brings despair, then death, no matter how smart you are or where you live. But there is One who has conquered death.
We sing a song in church that says:
One drop of blood that day
Was enough for humanity
On a hill the victory won
The price was paid
With His precious blood.
It will be 29 years since the blood of Jesus snapped the chains of death that held me. I can’t explain it any better today than I could then. In fact, I probably was more convincing then. It was all so new — waking up with peace, being able to look people in the eye when I talked, even learning to love, really love. I’m better at all this now, at least I like to think, but I also know that that strange feral young woman, who had just enough faith to say, “Jesus?” is not far away at all.
This is why I’m glad I don’t forget. To remember the dark days, my own swollen liver and the snare that held me. And I remember despair, pain chasing me to the brink of life and slipping over the sharp edge into the black abyss. I remember falling; I remember black so black that I became nothing.
Surprised, Grace caught me; I didn’t die a black death, but a blood-washed one. A death that brought life, a super-natural power that brought me out of the pit, and gently put me on higher ground, wide-eyed and new as a baby, now with His blood coursing through mine. Everything that is His is mine! This is unsearchable Love, this is unspeakable Mercy and all I can say is thank you. This is why we were made to worship — because Thanks can’t ever be enough.
Jesus, is what I tell the young man twisting and struggling in heroin’s net. The blood of Jesus will set you free. It doesn’t matter if you were born this way or if you have a disease – the blood of Jesus, nothing but the blood of Jesus will wash you clean.
Jesus is what I tell the sick, the lonely, the brokenhearted
“Without affliction there would be no comfort,” my son Spencer wrote in one of his journals. The strong palm of Grace reaches out to catch you, the nail-pierced hand, the one with your name across it.
“I once was lost but now I’m found, was blind, but now I see,” we sing.
So astonishingly simple. If the monsters and ghosts ever get too rowdy, too close for comfort, I remember the blood of Jesus. I am free – maybe not free from remembering, but free from being caught and condemned, and that breaks up their party. Just as the angel that brought death and mourning to Egypt passed over the doors marked in blood, so I will be passed over too. Death has no hold on me; I belong to Jesus. I am bought with His blood.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned,
Nor shall the flame scorch you. Isaiah 43:2 NKJV
And when you are free, on higher ground and far down the road of life, look back and remember. Let Mercy hold you, let Jesus lead you and don’t ever forget the cost.
Enjoy this song by Selah: Oh the Blood