Memory & Mental Health

In 2018, Carol & I were in Young Harris, Georgia, at the USS Yorktown CV-5 Survivor’s Club Reunion.

The purpose of a reunion is to socialize with friends and family, help us remember an event, or to celebrate the life of a person. The original purpose of the Yorktown reunions was to give the survivors of the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway (June 3-7, 1942) opportunities to share memories of life on board the ship – including experiences of the hell that erupted during battle – as well as memories of life’s experiences after the war.

Dad was stationed on the Yorktown from 1939 to June of 1942. In 1953 dad reentered the US Navy as a chaplain, and after retirement became chaplain of the CV-5 survivor’s club. I had the privilege of attending several reunions with dad and enjoyed hearing the ‘war-stories’ the men told.

Although most of the Yorktown veterans endured horrific experiences during the bombing, strafing, and torpedoing, those who freely shared their memories with others suffered much less mental anguish about it. The freedom to talk about the events often reduces PTSD. Visiting memorials and sharing memories with others is therapeutic, and aids in positive mental health which, in turn, can remove the need for long-term counseling.

Years ago, a man racing a 595-pound, 1200cc Kawasaki motorcycle at 95 mph plowed broadside into a Datsun (predating the Nissan) that our son, Ron, was driving. The wreck splintered the bike, killed the biker, destroyed the Datsun, and sent our kids to the hospital.

Ron was 16 years old and I didn’t want an emotional scar to develop, so I encouraged him to talk about what he experienced. As Ron initially related everything he remembered about the accident, we took many pictures of the aftermath; and every day for two weeks, I asked him to talk about it. At first, it was difficult. Then we discussed the event several times a week for a month. He relived, analyzed, and discussed the incident until he could narrate the event objectively – without emotional pain

The result? He has clear memories of the event and is sad about it, but he has no emotional scars and no mental trauma to overcome.

Those who will not talk about or share their feelings should at least write them down. Write out your experiences in as much detail as you can.

A good friend up north was having severe marital problems, but he would not violate his vows and did not want to hurt the children. Not willing to talk about it to anyone, he quietly, secretly, and in great detail, wrote his anxieties, emotions, bitterness, and frustrations as letters to himself. After writing each letter, he read it to himself – sometimes tearfully and in pain – then sealed it in an envelope and hid it. Each week he sealed another envelope, and never opened any of them again. Although he didn’t share the letters or his feelings with anyone else, he continually asked God to help him.

After several years he overcame the problems that plagued him and he was healed. He didn’t forget the problems. In fact, refusing to bury or hide them, he acknowledged his emotional struggles and communicated to God about it all. Then he asked the Lord to help him forgive his wife.

The situation improved and years later he died a happily-married man. As a side note: his wife didn’t change much. It was the process of opening up and releasing the problems – and forgiving her – that enabled him to accept his wife as she was and receive his healing.

Sharing memories with others can release emotional pressure and help maintain or regain positive mental health. But be sensitive to others. Don’t badger or bore them. Be willing to listen as well as to speak.

Forgiving and not holding grudges, and talking about problems in a positive manner, is similar to disinfecting a wound: the memory bank is cleansed and emotions are healed.

But also consider Philippians 4:6-7; “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

So spend time with family and friends, develop good memories as you enjoy life. Your happy memories will be one of your most important blessings in later life.

Itching Ears, Misplaced Devotion

Carol and I know many people who are dis-satisfied with church-life. They want to go deeper into the Word of God. They want to get into the mind of Christ so that they can know God’s thoughts on every issue, but they think of church services as on the level of kindergarten. They place themselves on a higher plane than the Church and look down on others.

However, when I look at their lives, I find many of them to be spiritually arrogant. Many of them do weird things – in the name of Christ, of course. I am reminded of Second Timothy 4:3-4 that says, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

One Sunday evening, I watched Pastor Frank tell a parishioner, “If you believe and stick your head out the church window and yell ‘Jesus’ three times as loud as you can, you will be healed.” The woman obeyed and Frank victoriously pronounced her healed. When she died a month later, Pastor Frank merely intoned, “She didn’t have faith.”

I watched Pastor Carey announce to his congregation, “If you believe, and sign the book of life in the back of the church, you’ll never die. No matter how long Jesus delays His return, you’ll live until He comes back.” With people lining up to sign his book, I asked my father, “When Brother Carey dies, that will disprove his theory, won’t it?” Dad responded, “No, son. His followers will just think the pastor didn’t have faith.” Brother Carey died in 1993 and people continue to propagate his fables.

One day while praying, Jack had an experience with the Lord that could have changed his life. Jack was excited and wrote down every detail so he would never forget it; and every time visitors came, Jack excitedly read the experience to them. One day a minister he hadn’t seen for some years came to visit, and Jack went to his room to get the document. The visiting minister wondered what happened when he heard Jack yell, “Oh no! The rats ate my experience!”

Yes, the rodents found their way into the desk and destroyed the document. However, Jack had lost the reality of his experience to spiritual rats long before. Why? He placed his affection on an experience rather than on the Lord of the experience.

Let’s back up for a minute. I am from a Pentecostal background and have been affiliated with various denominations. I’ve also been dis-satisfied with church at times. I always want to go deeper into the Word of God, and I want to know God’s thoughts on every issue. So, what’s the difference?

Many of the folks to whom I referred place their faith in spiritual experiences, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual gifts; but that emphasis tends to overshadow Jesus. Scripture tells us to exalt Jesus, the resurrected Christ, the Giver of the experiences, knowledge, and gifts. That’s where I am. There is a world of difference here. If we are devoted to or focused on Jesus as we study the Bible, He will help us gain the knowledge, experiences, and gifts as He sees appropriate. But our priorities will be correct.

Some friends remind me that First Corinthians 12:31 says “Earnestly desire the best gifts.” They think that’s an exhortation to go after gifts that appeals to them. But I respond, “You are seeking the gifts while side-stepping the Giver of the gifts. That’s backwards. Instead, that verse encourages us to utilize the gift that is most appropriate for the situation, for there is NO spiritual gift that is more important than any other. And if we seek God’s input, He will grant us the wisdom we need as we respond to any and every situation.”

I’ve seen people healed of terminal diseases and seen other miracles take place. But I understand the purpose of miracles and spiritual experiences. Yes, they benefit man, but they are supposed to help us focus our attention on the Lord, to honor and bring glory to God.

First Corinthians 2:16b tells us, “We have the mind of Christ.” That is, Jesus will reveal His thoughts as we remain true to Scripture and turn away from those who exalt either themselves or their ideas.

“Itching ears” generates misplaced devotion and causes us to put our faith in miracles or in experiences. Instead, we should put our faith in the Scripture and on the Lord Jesus Christ.