Friday, November 11, 2011

Reframing Our Memories

In Week 7 of Believing God, Beth Moore made some profound statements on page 151-152: (1) "We act on most what we remember most." (2) "Repressed and suppressed memories do not equal amnesia. They are still memories." (3) "When we meditate on our afflictions and wanderings--the bitterness and the gall of life--we can depend on our souls feeling downcast. You see, even our inner self will act on what we remember most." I'd like to add that we can also depend on our souls feeling anxious if what we remember revives the anxiety we felt at the time.

Beth also taught that by reframing our negative memories, we can stop acting on them. By looking for evidences of how God worked in our pasts even during the traumatic and/or terrifying times, we can stop acting on the bitterness and the gall and instead meditate on the way God was with us--even then--so that we don't relive the pain, depression, or anxiety. Instead, our focus will be on God, and our souls will be uplifted as we realize that our God was with us all the time and is for us not against us. Beth suggested we pray and ask the Holy Spirit (who is our Counselor and Reminder, John 14:26) to help us remember accurately so we can find evidences of God working in our pasts.

I put this into practice while I was doing the Believing God homework this week. I had previously believed that I had deviated from God's plans for me by becoming a teacher. Because I began experiencing panic attacks after teaching for 12 years, I believed that I must not have been meant to be one. It grieved me that I had spent 12 years of my life in the wrong profession. But looking back on this part of my life yesterday, I began remembering other things as well, and I realized that God had been there all along. He granted me favor on every front.

He gave me a cooperating teacher who was my exact opposite--laid back and very creative--so that I learned not to take myself too seriously and that I could also be creative. He gave me a supervising teacher who cared about me and worked with me so that--much to my surprise--I won the Student Teacher Award for her section. Instead of having to substitute teach before landing a job like most young graduates, I was hired by the school district in my own city, the same one my husband and I had attended and my boys had attended, and was given my choice of which grade to teach. I chose first grade so I was able to teach in the same grade that I student-taught in, at the same school, working with the same group of teachers I had met while a student-teacher. Blessing after blessing. I graduated college on a Friday and went to work as a teacher on Monday.

I saw that over time I had let all the negative stuff that happened obscure my memories of all the good that God had done. Even while having panic attacks, God gave me favor. My principal had been kind to me, encouraging me, and not letting me work late. He'd come by my room and tell me I'd stayed long enough after school and that it was time to go home.

As I saw how God had worked in my life and that my becoming a teacher had not been a mistake, I felt the weight of that guilt disappear. I hadn't missed out on God's plans for me.

I believe that my panic attacks began because of my inner view of myself and the weaknesses of my own personality. I had a victim mentality stemming from the abuse and traumatic events that occurred in my childhood, a perfectionist mind-set, and low self-esteem. When I look back on that season of my life, I can see the footprints of Jesus there, too. But that's for another post.

Revisiting my past through the lens of faith has been such a help to me. It is freeing and uplifting and fills me with love and gratitude for all God has done for me. My God has been my Helper, and He will continue to help me and give me favor as I continue to commit my way to Him and trust in Him. I love that verse in Psalm 37 that says, "Commit your way to the Lord, and He will do this. He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun." (NIV) Thank you, Jesus! I wouldn't change my past for anything because it has all led to knowing You as my Savior in every sense of the word.


stephanie said...

Thanks so much for this post. I have been suffering from horrible anxiety for the past few months. I grew up a Missionary kid in Asia and went to boarding school for a year. The trama of that has always stuck with me and I think it's contributing to the anxiety. It's comforting to know that I am not alone in this. Your blog is very helpful and you've reminded me to depend on God for all things.

Joni said...

He is faithful, Stephanie. He's looking for hearts fully devoted to Him. It's to our advantage to cry out to Him for help in our trials and to ask Him to surround us with His favor as with a shield. The psalmist, David, did it, and so can we. Set your eyes and your heart on Christ Jesus. Get into the Word and have a daily quiet time of prayer and then just listening to what His Spirit might say. Ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit every morning so that fear will have no place in you. And pray Scriptures that tell us how to overcome anxiety--Phil. 4:4-8; Matthew 6:25-34; Is. 54:10; Is. 41:10; Is. 41:13, etc. I've posted the ones I used in my October posts.