The identity of your disciple is shaped by his memories. To understand him and his behavior you will need to become familiar with these memories. A way to explore both his good and painful memories is for the two of you together to develop a timeline of his life. This needs to be done in a context of trust because he will feel vulnerable as he discloses both his cherished and wounding memories. (It is hurtful for a cherished memory not to be valued by another.)
Your disciple’s memories may be distorted so it is important to discern how he remembers his past, whether accurate or inaccurate, because how he remembers events and people affects his behavior today. For example, he may remember his second grade teacher as not liking him because she placed him in “time out” over a minor playground incident, when in reality she may have been an excellent teacher, but what he will carry with him into adulthood is the inaccurate memory of “mean” Miss Crump. I have also had a disciple remember his family as “wonderful” but in reality it was dysfunctional, while still another presented his family as a bad experience but in actuality it was a loving home.
Israel’s fear distorted their memory of Egypt and the Exodus. They remembered things how they wanted them to be remembered in order to justify their actions:
The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’ (Exodus 16:3)
Israel remembered how wonderful Egypt was but in actuality they had been miserable. Moses corrected Israel’s memory with the truth of their past so that they could rightly live in the future.
A couple things to keep in mind:
- When exploring his memories your disciple will be dealing with powerful emotions so expect contradictions and illogical conclusions, this is part of the memory correcting process.
- Remembering the past will take months for your disciple to process.
- The more painful his past the more resistance he will be to drawing up memories.
- Talk to your disciple’s family and friends to get an accurate view of the history of his life.