Memory and Vision

Dave Stone tells the story of a woman facing delicate brain surgery. The surgeon called her in and indicated the risk involved. On the one hand, she might lose her memory. On the other hand, she might lose her sight. All would likely be well, but if she were to lose one or the other, which would she choose? After a day of prayer and contemplation, she concluded she’d rather lose her memory. “I’d rather see where I’m going than remember where I’ve been.”

MemoryDave uses this touching story to illustrate the importance of vision – a dream and a preferred future – over memory. “Death comes when our memory of the past is greater than our vision of the future.”

But our ready abandonment of memory and our preference for vision, innovation, relevance, and growth comes at a cost.

The rise of the non-denominational church has both strengths and weaknesses. On the positive, it breaks free of bureaucratic, power-based, and often divisive structures. On the other hand, it is a church unmoored; with neither roots nor history.

Memory of the past, when it locks us into the past, can certainly create unhealthy and unhelpful wistfulness. Consider Israel in the wilderness, complaining that they missed garlic and leeks (and slavery) in Egypt! But we live most fully when memories inform the present.

Without memories, relationships remain shallow. Depth of friendship depends on increasingly shared experiences (which we remember). Faith itself depends on “remembering what the Lord has done” so that we can hold fast to Him. Loss of memory would, in fact, produce loss of faith and loss of connection. It undermines community, cohesion, and connection.

Vision without memory is nothing but the perpetual pursuit of a new experience. It loses its way. It rings hollow.

We need both.

The disdain that some have for the past is actually a pathway to loss not progress. Families without stories are families without intimacy. Trust itself is the fruit of past experiences.

Let’s learn to honor the past – learn from it, celebrate it, re-tell it – while we also lean into the future with hope and an open hand. If we deny either one (memory or vision), we’ll experience less than Christ intended; in marriages, families, friendships, and churches.

As a leader, parent, marriage partner, or friend, how’s your memory … and your vision?

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4 Responses to Memory and Vision

  1. Steven Block says:

    Thanks, David. I needed this today.

  2. markskrause says:

    Yes, another example of the false dichotomy way of thinking that pervades so much of leadership writing today. This is not a choice we need to make. We need both vision and tradition.

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