Memory: God’s Tool for Shaping Lives

Houston baptist university students around a table on the HBU campus, Memory: God’s Tool for Shaping Lives

Memory is a key part of our work at Houston Baptist University. We’re shaped by the people and events that came before us, and we want to be intentional about cultivating good memories that will shape us all in the years to come. Memory is a powerful force, and we want to use that force for good.

Memory in the scriptures

The scriptures talk a lot about memory. It’s the theme of the whole book of Deuteronomy. In that book, Moses reminds the children of Israel of all that the Lord has done for them. He tells them, and I paraphrase here, “Don’t forget, the Lord brought us up out of the land of Egypt, the Lord brought us across the Red Sea, the Lord brought us through the wilderness, the Lord brought us to this place. Do not forget the Lord who rescued you and redeemed you.”

The Bible tells us to remember, watch, hear, and listen. These words are used repeatedly in the Old Testament.

Memory is also a big theme throughout the New Testament. Our Lord said at the last supper, “This do in remembrance of me.” He wanted his disciples to remember his story, to reflect on it and to pass it down to future generations. They did.  Years later, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 11, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26). We continue that remembrance today because it was passed down to us.

Read more about how programs are HBU are taught from a Christian worldview in my HBU Faith and College Series.

Memory is powerful

Memory can work powerfully for good. We think of our loved ones who have gone on before us. We think of great stories. We have pictures of loved ones. These pictures are, in some ways, almost ghost-like. They jar memories that are bigger and better than the pictures themselves.

Memory can also be used for ill. Have you ever remembered something that has happened to you and felt angry about it all over again? You may find that a slight you thought you had forgiven needs to be reflected on further so you can forgive more completely.

Memory is at the heart of the Gospel. The Gospel is the story of what God did through Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus died and was resurrected our behalf. The story reminds us of God’s powerful deeds, and we are to use it to help us become the people he made us to be. We are stirred up, just as Timothy was when Paul told him to “Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).

You can read more about memory in “Memory, the Holy Spirit, and Baseball.”

Memory at HBU

My wife and I are honored to be part of an institution that honors and cultivates memories. Sue became an honorary alumna of Houston Baptist University when she received the Hallmark Award in 2008, and I’m an honorary member of the class of 2011. Though our memories of HBU are brief compared with those of some of the people we’re blessed to work with, our time here has changed and shaped us in powerful ways. Our memories of our years here will continue to shape and influence us for years to come.

When people talk about institutional memory, they’re really talking about people. I’m so grateful for the wonderful people who represent HBU’s institutional memory. They know where HBU came from. That’s powerful, because we should never forget the rock from which we were hewn.

As individuals and as an institution, we also create new traditions. Every moment that we live has to be recaptured with a memory, and that memory may still have the power to shape us years later. We live every moment today in the light of the past, but we also strive to build the kinds of memories that will edify us in the future.

We build not only our own memories, but also the memories of others. It’s vital for parents and grandparents to spend time with their children and grandchildren because, whether they know it or not, they are building the kinds of memories that will shape young lives. We build these kinds of memories with our students at HBU. Our faculty members sometimes share things that they quickly forget, but that a student might remember for the rest of her life because that dramatic moment changed, shaped, and influenced her. Those of you who teach and preach know this in a powerful way, but it’s true of all of us.

Sports are great for building cohesion and esprit de corps along with wonderful Huskies, HBU, Houston Baptist University, Football, Vic Shealymemories. Houston Baptist University’s first football team is preparing to start playing in the fall of 2014, and we’re excited about the good memories that team will help us form. Our head football coach, Vic Shealy, commented to me once that the firsts that are so important in football—the first helmet, first football, first practice, and so on—are already a key part of the life of the team. This is so important. The firsts we’re experiencing today will help form a powerful legacy for our future players, and we want to be intentional about shaping that legacy for the good of our students.

When all is said and done, our mission in the sphere of higher education is to shape the minds and hearts of young people to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and to do so in a way that’s distinctive, powerful, and transformative. We’re thankful for those who came before us in this mission, and we work hard to help our students cultivate the kinds of positive memories that will continue to draw them to Jesus for the rest of their lives.

The previous was adapted from Dr. Sloan’s remarks at the Spirit of HBU Alumni & Walk of Honor Awards Dinner at Houston Baptist University on November 2, 2012. A video of his original address may be viewed here.

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