March 11, 2009

Pop-up Memories

2009 1507 page14 capt’s one of those days when you’re pressed for time! You need to do some research, so you switch on your computer and log on to the Web. The modern miracle of millions of bits of information at your fingertips comes to life. You’re ready to start your search—and then it’s there! A pop-up advertisement suddenly fills your screen. It doesn’t just flash on and then disappear. It occupies the space, flaunting its message in an eye-catching way in an attempt to capture your attention long enough to sell you a product or service. It blocks what you came to do—it slows you down. In fact, it halts your progress until you finally locate the illusive clickable button to banish it.

Your struggle may not be over, though, for other pop-ups are often embedded beneath the first one. It becomes annoying after a while as you try to get serious work done without the pop-ups getting in your way. It seems that no matter how often you erase them, they return.
How like my life the above scenario has turned out to be! I’ve done some things that I’d just as soon forget about. Because I asked with a sincere and repentant heart, I know that God has forgiven me and has created a new heart within me. And I can feel Him working in me every day. So why is it that at the oddest times memories I’d expected to be long gone still pop up, one after another, to haunt me? Why do those scenes replay in my mind—attempt to consume me—when I’m trying to banish them?
Prophetic Words
There was a time in my life when I chose to set aside what I knew to be right and go with the whim of the moment. I knew I was being tempted, but I rather enjoyed the thoughts that flowed through my mind.
I would pause only a moment to wonder if I might later be sorry for my contemplated indiscretion. I suspected that I would be, because a Christ-centered life had always been my goal—and my habit. But in a moment of rebellion I purposely shut the door on my conscience. It was then that I uttered words that have since echoed in my ears like a fateful prophecy: “Someday I will have to stop this and ask forgiveness, but no one can ever take the memories away from me.”
How true my statement was!
Forgiven, but I Can’t Forget
When I finally came to my senses and realized how far I’d let myself wander from God’s plan for me, my heart was stricken. I knew I was being presumptuous to request His forgiveness for my purposeful sins, but I asked Him to pardon me anyway. True to His promise in Ezekiel 11:19, the Lord put a new spirit within me and took away my stony heart. And I was thankful for His amazing kindness and the peace He gave me.
2009 1507 page14But when God created this new heart within me, why didn’t He clean up my memory, as well? If my old nature really is dead, why does all the old stuff keep replaying in my head?
Satan would insinuate it’s because I really wasn’t forgiven, but I realize that one of his primary tools is guilt, designed to produce discouragement and then submission to his desires. I now make a regular habit of dismissing Satan’s insinuations.
The real problem is that the human brain records sounds, sights, smells, and experiences. Any of these can jog my memory and bring back a flood of scenes to my mind. Much of the time I’m grateful for instant recall. At other times, when unwanted memories pop up, I wish my memory would malfunction.
Along with Eve, I too have learned that although my sins have been forgiven, I still must live with the results of my actions for the rest of my life. Perhaps this is a good thing, because it’s the ugliness of my memories that helps me realize the true enormity of sin. This uncomfortable place is where the rubber meets the road.
Pop-up Ad Prevention
There are some pretty good pop-up ad-prevention programs on the market these days. They feature settings that block unwanted materials, or spam. You buy the software, install it on your computer, and it filters out those pesky ads—or at least most of them. Just as Satan wants to recapture me and devises new means to achieve that end, “Web devils” are tenacious and quickly develop new methods to bypass preventative programs. Protection programs, therefore, must continually be upgraded.

So I ask myself,
If pop-up protection is available for computers, why can’t God devise something to guard against my unwanted memories?
Cleaning Your Hard Drive
Before a new computer software program can be installed, we often have to clean off some current programs on the hard drive that would interfere with the new program. It’s the same with our minds. To “clean off” things in our minds, we must check our lifestyles. Are we reading, watching, or listening to things that promote closeness with God? Or are they designed to entice us into the world? If your answer is the latter, ask God to help you delete them from your life so they won’t draw your thoughts back to your unwanted lifestyle.
Do you go to places that remind you of your indiscretion? Do you keep company with people who would tempt you to return to those previous ways? We must be willing—with God’s help—to strip away everything that is spiritually harmful and keep our pathways as uncluttered as possible from former temptations.
How to Control Memory Pop-ups
When an unwanted memory pops up, immediately thank God for His previous forgiveness for the wrong-doing. Thank Him for changing you. Then, rather than concentrate on the unwanted memory, turn it off by thinking of a favorite scene in Christ’s life. Claim His promise that He will finish the good work He has started in you. Pray for God’s help while you work, walk, talk, and throughout all your daily activities. Sing of His love and goodness. Praise Him as you go. Delve into your Bible to find God’s promises for help. Memorize them. Quote them when unwanted memories pop up.
Recalling a sinful action is not a sin as long as we don’t let it linger. When we allow it to replay in our minds, it can become cherished and a repeated temptation for us. Though we can’t always help what pops into our thoughts, we certainly can help what stays there.
Our fight is a fight for mind control. Satan wants to capture our faculties so that he can control us like puppets. It’s up to us to choose who our leader will be, and whom we will worship. When we choose Christ, He gives us added strength to deal with the results of what we did in the past.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, all things are possible through Him, even controlling those pesky pop-up memories. 
Elaine Egbert has written eight books. Her interests are religious studies, writing, keeping in contact and praying for her large family, and nurturing her neurotic dog, Kizzy. Her husband, Bob, is a professor at Walla Walla University.