I am about to do something new; Even now it shall come to pass, Suddenly you shall perceive it: I will make a road through the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 (TJSB)
Personal Happiness – The New Thing Series – Part 2
“This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past…'” (Isa 43:16-18).
Here, Isaiah is referencing the time God parted the red sea for the Israelites so they could cross to the other side of it and subsequently decimated the Egyptian army. He was reminding them – he wanted them to remember – what he had done for them. And then, he finished up his “Remember when?” with “Forget the former things…”
So, are we to remember? Or forget?
Daniel Kahneman – widely regarded as the world's most influential living psychologist – gave a TED talk a few years ago titled, “The riddle of experience verses memory” (watch it – kinda mind blowing).
He explained that we all have two selves: a remembering self, and an experiencing self. In essence, we do not choose between experiences, but rather between memories of experiences. According to Kahneman, even when we think about the future, we think of our future not as experiences but as anticipated memories.
It’s our memories more than our experiences that give us our sense of happiness. He goes on to say that our experiences have a minimal effect on our personal happiness. He’s not saying that we don’t experience great sorrow and that some of our memories aren’t painful. They are. We all have them. But in the end, our experiences are not the dominant force affecting our personal happiness. It is instead our remembered self that controls how we perceive and experience life.
Think of it this way: two people can have the same experience and remember very different things about it, and it's their memories, more than the experience, that feeds their emotions. David (Kahneman) is saying that it is not our experiences but how we remember those experiences and even what experiences we choose to remember that have the most profound effect on our happiness, and on our perception of the future. It's one of the reasons why sometimes the people who have been through the worst experiences seem to be happier, or more fulfilled, than those who haven’t.
(To make more sense out it, watch the TED talk).
We all have dark memories. I have some that when I think of them, I feel like the wind gets knocked out of me. All the emotions of the ‘experience’ come flooding back, and often those memories change my mood, my outlook, and my posture. It’s how I remember those experiences, and what the memory does in my heart, that effects me so deeply. And get this: a lot of the time, our memories are filtered not so much through truth, but our own bias. They may not even represent the true essence of the experience. You can re-write your life by bringing perspective to how you remember your past experiences.
Perhaps Isaiah is talking about re-remembering your memories, or choosing which ones to feed your ‘self,’ or making peace with the experiences of your past.
Now, I know it's not an easy thing. Making peace with your past is not an instantaneous transaction. It's about healing, and we all know that healing takes time.
But here’s thing: do the work. What Isaiah said in a few lines can take years to outwork, DID take years for the Israelites. The newness comes THROUGH the work, through the old, through the mess.
In his book, “The Artisan Soul” Erwin McManus said:
“Our interpretation of life determines the material from which we will build the future.”
Israel had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, but Isaiah challenged them to remember that things change; that God made a way through the sea for them. And now, in the middle of the wilderness and the wasteland, newness comes… (Isaiah 43:19).
What do you remember?
Go to Part 3 – Making a Road »
Written by Lizzy Milani