I pondered what to do with all of the old books, those thick notebooks full of prayers, thoughts, dreams and probably far too many complaints. They all sat on the floor for months, giving me time to flip through, read a little here and there. Some of it made me laugh. But lots of it made me pensive and sorrowful. I felt sorry for the girl-teen-woman in the pages, her hunger for self-worth and love so painfully raw. Part of me wanted to put them back into boxes, shoved back into the dark corners of closets, but the other part of me wanted to let them go, forever unavailable to eyes other than God. Ultimately, because these were tools for my own hashing out, they were destroyed.
I expected to feel sad. But I wasn’t. I was just ready to be a little more kind to me (does that idea seem unChristianly?).
There are many people I know or have read about that have real suffering in their lives, everything from depression to things that would make you weep. I wonder if they journal, if they talk with God. I also wonder about how we as Christians are the hands and feet of the Great Physician, and yet too many times what is offered are flippant platitudes and scripture tossed about carelessly. I have seen for myself how words out of the mouth ring shallow when the eyes don’t bother with the time to really look. I know Christians suffering who are told to “Just get over it”. It is shameful.
My great concern is how to share the love of Christ with the suffering, how to tell them of Jesus and plead for their souls, reminding them of their worth because they are made in His image. So many have so much shame that Law is the last thing they need–they are already fully aware and tender under its weight. But I also know this: because I have not felt their pain in the truest sense, my “suffering” being laughable by some standards, my words carry only as much weight as the attention of my eyes and heart. I don’t want to be high and unapproachable, seemingly unbitten by trials, stingy with any morsels of grace and love even as I offer up Truth. In this sense any words at all would fall flat, empty as flattery, as helpful as snake bites.
What else challenges me is this: do people I know that have seen real suffering have real access to those tea cups of mine? Can they mosey into my life at all? Would I, right now, be a friend to the young woman in my own journals?
So what do you do with your old journals? Do you save them in hopes of finally being understood someday? Do you keep them as a record to look back on (and does it help you to do so)? Are they full of historical and familial stories you want saved for your grandchildren? The right thing for me was to let them go. Maybe the right response to old journals depends on what they were used for to begin with.
Ironically (or not…), I received a blank mask in the mail to complete before the Art and Soul Retreat in Portland. I’ve never been on a retreat like this before, much less on a solo vacation. But I am looking forward to it, to learning new skills and hopefully making some new friends in a new realm. Strips of old journaling cover my face, because I know every bit of every word is still part of the make up of me even if the books no longer exist. Some say art heals. I say Jesus heals, but sometimes He uses art to see us through (not over) it.