It is estimated that over 1.1 million American military members were killed in all wars since our nation was born. The war that birthed our nation, revolutionary war, saw just over 4,400 deaths. By contrast, the greatest casualties were from the Civil war (498,332) and World War 2 respectively (405,399)
Truly the familiar saying “freedom isn’t free” rings no louder in our minds than on this day set aside to “never forget.” Memorial Day was originally called “Decoration Day;” named after the practice of placing flowers on the graves of war-dead soldiers in 1868.
“For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”
– James A. Garfield May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
Over a century later, congress re-named and declared the holiday “memorial day” in 1971. Since then, it is good for us to somberly and gratefully recall the lives of so many spent for us. Aspire to a greater level of civic duty and appreciative patriotism. Display a flag in their honor, exercise your right to vote, and enjoy the freedoms they bought for us all.
Beyond that, let’s consider your memory in general. HOW DO YOU USE YOUR MEMORY? This may be an unfamiliar question. Most people don’t think all that much about their memory, they just “have it.”
We all have things in our past that we would prefer to forget. Shameful things, painful failures, disappointments, the list goes on. Unfortunately, our past can be an ongoing source of struggle and pain. It all depends on how we choose to use our memory!
If you have things in your past that continue to hurt or hinder you inside, realize what a mentor of mine used to say: “We don’t live with our past, we live with what we tell ourselves about our past.”
Please re-read that. Your past is gone, over, never to return. You may say you live with your past, but the truth is you actually don’t live with your past, YOU LIVE WITH WHAT YOU CURRENTLY TELL YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR PAST.
Sadly, our self-talk can repeat damage, rejection, failure and betrayal. Many people live imprisoned with a painful past and re-state it to themselves.
Perhaps you had a harsh, perfectionist for a parent, and you constantly tell yourself “I can never do anything right, I’m worthless.” Or perhaps a spouse cheated on you and rejected you. You can “remember it like it was yesterday” and as such, you repeat the hateful words you heard to yourself, “I’m such a disappointment, no one could ever love me.”
If asked about your painful past, you defend it, “But I was there, and heard what they said.” That is true, to a degree. You were there, that is why it is YOUR past. BUT, there are two potential problems:
Just because someone else said or did it to you, doesn’t mean you have to recall and agree with them every time it comes to mind. If wounded recollections continue to hurt and hinder you, pray for God to give you a healing and healthier interpretation of your past.
Rather than “I’m such a disappointment, no one could ever love me” perhaps you could recall “I have sure been betrayed by those who said they loved me, I’m thankful I am resilient, and worth loving again!”
Instead of re-living condemnation “I can never do anything right”, why not recall “I have stood the test of some pretty unfair criticism, and I’ve stayed strong, that says a lot about how resilient I am, and about how capable I must be.”
This Memorial Day, look back in gratitude to those who paid for our freedom with their lives. But also look back on the painful parts of your past and ask God for grace to enjoy mental and emotional freedom from that pain by helping you begin to say and believe NEW things you’ll tell yourself about your past.