A while ago my mom told me I had a few boxes of stuff in her garage. I told her I thought I had gotten everything by now but when I went to look I found she was right (aren’t mom’s always right?). When I looked inside I was repulsed, shut the boxes and left them there.
What was so awful about the contents of those boxes? My past was in there. My painful and dreadful past in the form of journals and I wasn’t ready to face it. There those boxes sat for a few months until this past weekend when I decided to take some of the journals home. There were so many I only took 3 tote bags worth.
In my 30s & 40s I was a prolific journal keeper – it was a way of venting the enormous emotional pain I was going through. My 20s were filled with keeping spiritual journals and my 50s I got out of the habit and have not been consistent at all (as this blog is an example of). And, maybe that’s good – because I tended only to write out my pain and I am not in anywhere near the agony I used to be in. Those days, I had 1 good day out of 30. Today I have 25+ good days out of 30.
Anyway, I took the journals home on Saturday, left them in the car Saturday night and brought them in on Sunday morning. When I finally screwed up the courage to look at them, I was surprised. Half of them were picture journals – pictures cut out of magazines with comments about how I was feeling next to them. Those made me smile because I still cut pictures out of magazines and collage with them. Most of the collages are journals of how I’m feeling at the time. It’s nice to know that a large part of me has not changed through the years.
The other half were page after page of script – front and back – each page crammed full of pain. As I glanced at them I found no joy, no hope, no life in them. Nothing but struggle, agony and desperation. Some of them I couldn’t even look at once I read a snippet or two.
My life now is one of hope, joy, faith and love mixed with a healthy dose of worry, concern and doubt. Is there any room for such pain? I checked in with my heart and with God about those journals. I asked, Should I keep them? They are my history, after all. Then almost immediately I thought, keep the ones that make you smile but not the ones that bring back the pain.
The picture journals are on my book shelf. The others are in the recycle bin. I didn’t even look at them twice – out they went. Later on when I went to bed I thought about them, wondering if I had done the right thing. And I realized I had. The past is the past. It is gone; I have dealt with it, healed as best I could from it and am still working toward forgiveness for the people who hurt me so terribly; but I am also working toward forgiveness for myself for the things I did to me and other people that were hurtful.
I know you can’t runaway from the past – it follows you everywhere you go. But I have faced what has been presented to me and moved through it. At some point it’s time to let it go in love, understanding and forgiveness.
My past I have left in the very capable hands of God. He holds my past, my present and my future. He alone knows what I have gone through, what I am going through and what I will go through. If I have need of something from the past, He will gift it to me and then provide the strength I need to conquer growing pains.
Sometimes I worry about my tendency to live only in the now, in the present. But I realize and accept that were I to live in the past I would be a bitter, hateful, spiteful woman – just like the bitter, hateful, spiteful men and women I meet every day on the phone. And I don’t want to be that person. If I want to be Christ-like (and I do), then I must leave those past things with God. The only way I can manage is to let them go completely, sliding into oblivion and deal with them when and if they surface.
I like my life now. I’m learning to love it.