The Memory of the Heart

by Andy Wood on October 11, 2011

in Allocating Your Resources, Five LV Laws, LV Cycle, Principle of Legacy

How do you want to be remembered?

By what you did?  What you said?  Who and how you loved?  What you accomplished or overcame?

That may or may not happen.

I was chatting with someone yesterday about the idea of legacy – one of those Five Laws of LifeVesting.  He asked me to clarify what I meant and how people leave legacies after their time on earth is done.  I said that legacy has two parts – the intentional and the unplanned.

There are some things I want to be remembered for, and I take action to make those memories while I still have a chance by investing my life in things that will live on after me.  This is why people give money, write things, do art or music, or make memories with people, just to name a few.

But your legacy has a life of its own, and you’re making memories all the time, whether you realize it or not.  Some of those are pretty routine.  Some are painful.  Some are glorious, and you don’t even know it.

Two days ago I got an email from Gotta-Love-Google-Land.  It came from somebody I knew in my very first church staff position, 33 years ago.  The message, framed with “thank you,” contained some profound memories.  What was interesting, though, was what all those memories had in common.

The all had something to do with how I had helped this person feel.

And that’s what people will remember most and longest about you.  It’s not so much about what you said or did or didn’t do.  It’s about how they felt about what you said or did or didn’t do.

The heart has memories that are often sealed away like gold in a vault.  Have you ever rediscovered someone you had forgotten about (in your head) and been hit with a flood of feelings-laced memories?  Vivid details often returned, bathed in laughter, jealousy, pain, love or fear that seems as strong today as when you first lived it.

There’s this guy I knew in third grade – third grade! – who was something of a rival.  I haven’t talked to him since then, but whenever I do remember him, those feelings of rivalry help replay vivid scenes on the kickball field.  I also remember Mrs. Smith, my third-grade teacher, and how cherished she made me feel that same year (1966 if you must know).

A Two-Edged Sword

The memory of the heart is a two-edged sword.  You remember the people who made you laugh or feel loved or comforted.  You also remember the people who made you cry or feel shamed or rejected.  And sometimes it’s the same face in all the scenes.

That’s why forgiveness is so critical to healing and growth – both forgiving others and forgiving yourself.  Just because your heart has the memory doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to re-living pain, rejection, shame, or humiliation.  When Jesus said He came to heal the brokenhearted, whatever else that means, it includes the memories of your heart in pain – often from years ago.  His grace and healing power can enable you to look at a past experience as simply that – a past experience, now covered in the grace and healing that forgiveness brings.

But like hidden treasure, the memory of the heart also keeps vivid reminders of people and experiences that nurtured us, healed us, helped us, or held us close for a while.  My wife routinely talks about “hearing Peggy Cherry” – a second mother-type who passed away years ago.  She can still “hear” her voice (and advice!) as Peggy’s legacy and influence live on.

It’s the memory of the heart.

Making Deposits in Someone Else’s Vault

Today and for the rest of your life, you will be making deposits in the vaults of others as you create memories in their hearts.  You can make them feel stupid, useless, annoying, or unwanted, whether you intend to or not.

Or you can decide to invest in making them feel loved.  Important.  Interesting.  Valued.  Fun or funny.  Smart or pretty.  Talented or gifted.  Spiritually strong, or a host of other possibilities.  The choice is yours.

Rewind to yesterday.  I had an important meeting, preceded by a 45-minute drive.  I was anxious to get there and (surprise) running on the edge of late.  I was staying at my daughter’s house, and my three-year-old granddaughter wanted to play hide and seek while I was gathering up all my stuff to hit the road.

What to do?

I decided to be 15 minutes early instead of 30 minutes early.  And for 15 minutes I made some pretty fun deposits in her emotional vault.

Her mind will soon forget how we got a little crazy when Papa came to visit.  But there in her heart (I pray for a lifetime) she will remember that she was worth searching for… especially when she was hiding and hoping to be found.

With all that I’ve done wrong, maybe yesterday – at least for 15 minutes – I got something right.

Make a deposit today in someone else’s emotional vault.  The memory you plant in the heart will live on long after you’re gone.

And while you’re at it, maybe this would be a good time to open your own vault and say thank-you to some people who left a treasure there.  Or if they’re no longer living, say thank-you to God for the legacy they left for you.

I’m sure He’ll be glad to relay the message.

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