Ever wish your memory was better? Then you are probably jealous of someone like Carrie Wells, the lead character on the TV show Unforgettable. The character has a real-life condition called hyperthymesia, where an individual has perfect autobiographical recall of his or her life. Basically, that individual can tell you everything they saw, heard, or experienced from nearly any day of his or her life.
While that may sound great, and for Carrie Wells it helps her to be a superstar police detective, in real life it isn’t always a good as it may seem.
At the age of 8, Jill Price’s memory became nearly perfect, and by the time she was 14 years old she could remember every moment from every day of her life.
Give me a date from  forward and I can instantly tell you what day of the week it was, what I did on that day, and any major event that took place – or even minor events – as long as I heard about them on that day.
However, for Jill Price this “gift” doesn’t stop at the ability to recall her past. Her past has literally haunted her for her entire life.
My memories are like scenes from home movies of every day of my life, constantly playing in my head, flashing forward and backward through the years relentlessly, taking me to any given moment, entirely of their own volition.
Imagine the entirety of your life running like a movie in your memory all day, every day. You can’t shut it off or get rid of it; it’s always there. You remember good things like nailing a musical recital in high school or hitting a game-winning shot, your wedding or the birth of your first child. But you also remember the bad events, like failing a big test, doing something to hurt a close friend, having your heart broken, or even the death of someone you cared about. Would you really want vivid memories like these popping into your head at random throughout your day? Even if we have worked through some of the pain of our past, we likely aren’t going to be excited to review it in exact detail. However, for Jill Price this becomes even worse.
One of the features of my memories that is most difficult to cope with is that the emotion of them isn’t dialed down; my memories are apparently exceptionally emotional and sensually vivid…It’s not as though I’m looking back on the events with the distance of time and of adult perspective; it’s as though I’m actually living through them again…For me, the emotion that comes along with every memory is every bit as potent as it was the day I first had it.
For years Jill has had the memories of her parents’ separation, her grandmother’s stroke and death, and her husband’s death from a stroke at the age of 42. As we can only begin to imagine, this sort of emotional toll is at times devastating for Jill. When I first heard this woman’s story, the commentator introduced it as his expectation of what hell would be like.
I believe Jill Price would gladly give up the pain and misery of reliving these awful events day after day, but the reality is some of us do that kind of thing to ourselves. We allow ourselves to relive our past pains, failures and mistakes. We have lots of help, too. In Revelation 12:10, Satan is called the “accuser of our brothers” (ESV). In the story of Job, we see him attacking Job’s integrity. Peter tells us Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). He is looking to destroy us, and he will do whatever he can to do it. He will remind us of our past; our sins, our rebellions, our failures. He will show us how we have hurt others and how we have hurt God. He will try to paralyze us by the reminder of how truly messed up we all are.
Imagine Paul’s struggles; he was a Pharisee (not an organization that Jesus was very high on) and he led a group that was seeking to exterminate Christianity. He was as big of an enemy to God as you could imagine. In Philippians, Paul writes a list of reasons that he could have confidence in the flesh, including being a “persecutor of the church” (3:6). This is obviously something he isn’t proud of. But he doesn’t let it drag him away from God’s plan for his life. He follows that statement by saying;
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Don’t let your past failures hold you back from what God has for you now. If you have unconfessed sin in your life, then confess it, repent of it, and know that God has forgiven you. That means it’s gone. Move on.
God has bigger things in store for you. Forget the past. Look to what God has for you now.
Quotes by Jill Price come from the book “The Woman Who Can’t Forget” by Jill Price with Bart Davis.