On rare occasion I get into the type of mood that can only be described as the “Perfect Storm.” I am overly caffeinated and faced with a large chunk of time to myself (which is why this is so rare) , when suddenly it’s like all the clutter around me becomes unbearable.
All at once, instead of seeing specks of dirt, I see mountains of grime and skin cells and coffee rings. The crumbs on the floor come to life and speak to me, taunting me for eating pretzels in bed again. The laundry I haven’t put away turns into accusing shouts that I am the worst person in the world because I own FAR too many clothes and wear none of them.
The piles around me begin to close in and the room spins and traps me in my own personal nightmare (not to be dramatic).
95% of my life I live in the land of piles.
Piles in my bathroom. Piles in my car. Piles in my classroom.
Piles are THE BEST because you can make things look neat and organized, but truthfully under the stack is an old kleenex, a magazine for 2007, last year’s tax return and 30 days worth of junk mail. Piles are the perfect tricksters to make people think you have things under control.
Every 2-3 months, my roommate will gently move my beautiful piles into my room, forcing me to confront the issue.
Tonight, in that mood, I decided it was time to get rid of everything and anything I didn’t need anymore. This was project 1 of many, as I simultaneously texted Max that I wanted to open a new credit card and then rearrange the furniture in my room. He is trained to recognize and talk me down whilst in these moods, so he lovingly told me I needed to focus on one thing at a time. So I went after the piles with a fiery vengeance.
I started shredding mail that was lying around, filling up garbage bags of trinkets and broken phone chargers and sticky notes.
It felt so good to get the clutter out- the stuff I just didn’t need that was taking up so much space.
Then I went into my closet and stared at a pile that has been bothering me for awhile.
On the top shelf of my closet sat eight colorful journals, pages filled with the documentation of my life up until about a year ago.
I haven’t journaled much this year; maybe a few pages, and ironically, the last 12 months have been the healthiest, most life-giving, blessed, beautiful redeeming months of my life, yet I couldn’t bring myself to open the pages and begin to write.
They are the stories I have waited my whole life to tell- full of love and growth and laughter and grace- but I didn’t tell them.
This year was the result of surrendering my life to God and submitting to His plan for me. This year was beautiful. But I didn’t write.
This year, I couldn’t bring myself to journal because I didn’t want to remember where I had been.
Those old journals are pages filled with self-doubt, cycles of sin, destructive relationships, life crippling anxiety, body image issues and wrong decisions.
Part of me thought that opening those pages again would somehow erase the work God has done in my life the past year. I feel SO totally different than the person I used to be, that even the same process of journaling was too close of an association.
So I kept them hidden.
Seeing them up there would many times trigger a physical anxious response in me.
Opening them meant re-visiting a me I wish I never was.
They have been a pile haunting me for awhile.
Those journals represent darkness, but that’s no longer where I am.
I am walking in the light.
Tonight I decided it was time to let them go.
I stretched up to the top shelf of my closet and I lowered the heavy pile of floral journals.
I thumbed through a few pages and immediately regretted it as I flashed back to situations and memories I wanted to forget. I put them next to each other and I began to reflect on who I am now and from where He has brought me.
He brought me from brokenness and restored my heart.
He showered every dark situation from my life with his beautiful, bright light and forgave me and changed me and made me whole.
He gave me a new standard for living, a new understanding of His word and His law, and transformed a heart hardened by fear into one overflowing with His love.
Back then, I wanted instant change and relief from my struggles, but instead the past year I have begun to understand the slow, steady, painful process of sanctification.
I’m not sure why I kept those journals. I guess I never even considered the idea of getting rid of them. It was my past and I am stuck looking at it and being reminded of it- the punishment fits the crime.
But I am not who I once was. I struggle still and I have hard days. I battle insecurity, but no longer do I live in bondage and fear. Visiting those pages was like reading the words of a stranger. I do not need to keep those memories as proof of God’s redeeming work in me.
The proof of His redemptive work is in every breath I breathe.
I will sing of His glorious transforming power until the day I die, but I don’t have to live in the past anymore. I don’t have to punish myself with flashbacks in order to measure my growth.
I loaded up the bags of trash to take out to the dumpster. Typically one for pomp and circumstance, I usually would want some dramatic ceremony to celebrate being free from the past and this giant step in moving forward.
But God’s work in me was not flashy. It wasn’t always pretty. It usually didn’t feel like a celebration. It worked into the top layers of my heart until it penetrated the innermost parts of my soul.
I took a deep breath and I flung the bag of journals into the dumpster.
And I walked away.
Thank you Jesus for setting me free. I’m never going back.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new.
**Also, if you are in a junkyard and happen to find a bag of flowery looking journals, please either burn them in a bonfire or turn the plots of the journals into a made for TV movie