I’ve kept a journal off and on since I was a junior in high school, which is quite a feat for a guy like me. They’re all stacked in an old steamer trunk I keep in the corner of my office, a hodgepodge of spiral notebooks, leather journals, and batches of loose leaf notebook paper bundled with crumbling rubber bands.
I seldom dig through them. Any thoughts of those scribblings being anything that resembles writing fodder would be cast aside by the briefest of glances. In those books are pathetic attempts at poetry and even worse tries at art. There are song lyrics by everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Axl Rose, love letters to forgotten sweethearts, and at least one ticket from many high school dances.
But though I never care to venture in there, I can’t seem to throw any of it away. That seems a little strange when I think about it, since the majority of those pages represent periods in my life that I tried for years to forget or—at the very least—put behind me. Years that I wandered through my days with neither faith nor hope, not living but merely existing.
When I sit here at my table during those small hours of the night, I often glance up from my computer screen to take fleeting look at that trunk. I try to tell myself I do this to make sure the trunk is still there, but that’s not the reason. Not really.
The real reason? Well, the real reason is that I need all of those journals. No matter how painful some of those memories may be, I need to remember where I’ve been before if I’m to be reminded of where I am now. Even if it means carrying my share of regrets.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. That’s what I once told myself. I was supposed to be the man who lived his life with the sort of balls to the wall, take no prisoners sort of mentality that guaranteed a regret-free existence. Didn’t turn out that way. I can look back on my life and find more that I did wrong than I did right.
Erasing my regrets can’t be done, of course. They are like pencil marks that have been rubbed out. Some are light and barely seen, and some are so deep that their impressions remain. Either way, the end result is the same—the blank sheet of my life, the one that was to be filled with beauty and perfection, is now smudged. I can cover those smudges up. I can cover them with lines and words and pictures so that they’re invisible to most who bother to look. But I can still see them, and in the end I suppose that’s all that matters.
The other cheek we’re told we should turn to others is very often the one we refuse to turn to ourselves, just as the burdens we place on ourselves are always greater than the ones the world places on us. It is a battle, this life. One fought not on the battlefields of distant countries, but inside each of us. The world is a mess because we are a mess.
I say all of that so I can say this:
Our lives are not one long and straight line with birth at one end and death at the other. It is instead a line that curves and dips and sometimes even doubles back upon itself in not one birth or death, but many. Some parts of our lives must end so others can begin. We must say goodbye to some so that we may say hello to others.
In the end our lives are a process by which God both guides and prods in order to make us into the people he wishes us to be, people still flawed and still fallen, but with hearts ready to love and a purpose to help cast aside the shadows of this world. It is a long process. Painful at times and at times confounding. But it is a holy process, a hardening of coal into diamonds, and one we must be faithful to.
Because it’s true that God loves us just the way we are, and it is also true that He loves us too much to leave us that way.
(This post is part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival on Faithfulness. To read more entries, please visit Bridget Chumbley)