Sunday, September 19, 2010

My checkered past

From a novel:
"...If you were to attempt it, you would see at once what a terrible inhibition it is to be writing something that is to have no end.  I bring my letters safely to an end after a few pages, when I have faithfully recorded my impression of the past few days.  But a journal, if it is to serve its purpose, must go on for years or for decades.  It must go on, in fact, until I have lived the life the journal is to record.  It makes me dizzy to think of it, and while I'm writing I find it impossible not to imagine myself looking back from the journal's future, an old woman already at the end of the life I am recording.  The present loses its meaning for me the instant I begin to record it with the cold abstracted gaze of the future."       

A unique view of journal-writing, one so far from mine I've never even thought of it.  I journal because I must, because it is part of keeping the past for one thing--so that I never lose one self for another.  When I was a certain-boy-crazy teenage girl, and wrote of him obsessively, spent my journal's pages praying for and about him, that was the real me.  I know that because I still have her words in my very handwriting.  I can't take a brush and paint over those years as if I was different or better or other than I really was.  And I am grateful to have these windows into how I was processing what life meant as it happened.  Even if it seems childish now.  It gives me a picture window into how God deals with us.  By this I mean that He lowers Himself to whatever level we are when we reach out to Him.  To my sixteen-year-old self, He responded one way, and it was entirely appropriate, and to my more mature (but with still such a very long way to holiness) self, He responds in quite another.  It's only right that this should be so.

But I never wrote a sentence of a journal with the idea of a future self the censor for my thoughts. Sure, some of what's in those blue notebooks is garbage, pure, unadulterated garbage, that should be thrown away, though I have no will to do it.  I've written when I was hurt, angry, spiteful and just downright rude.  There are entries in those journals that do no credit to my testimony of being one filled by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ.  And I regret that.  I regret that I do not always write what is a pleasing aroma to Him who I want to please.

In the last week or so, I've had a couple of conversations with people who say they have no regrets about their past.  I have to say this idea is troubling to me, perhaps because, to me, regret is a Biblical notion associated with repentance.  To feel sorrow or regret for what I've done or have failed to do is the human emotion God uses to lead me to repentance.  However if it's true that some don't feel regret for past actions or inactions, a writer of journals has no such luxury.  Those blue notebooks of mine, unless I create a giant bonfire from them (which I am not inclined to do) are a permanent record of conversations that are not honorable because I am not always honorable all the time. The downright, unvarnished truth of it is that I have a checkered past.  I've made some poor choices, a couple of such doozies I'd have to claim amnesia to not regret them.  I've held grudges.  Justified my position and used God as a genie in a lamp who 'owes' me my desires.  I absolutely regret those things.  

And I'm glad of it. Glad, of course, that my checkered past has been wiped clean by the bloody cross of Jesus.  And I'm even glad I've written about those 'checks' as I commit them.  It keeps me honest, somehow.  I cannot forget who I've been, nor who I am.  And ultimately I believe my life has been well-lived because it was/is lived out in print as well.  God has met me time after time, in my regrets as well as those choices so perfect I can only look at them and wonder.

Because that's the other side of the coin, isn't it?  If I have regrets, I also know--know with my blood and my bones and the muscles between--that the best choices in my life, the best decisions and actions (or thankful missed actions), did not come from my own brain.  I was only the instrument of His doing.  The object of the sentence with Him as the subject, to put it in the vernacular of my English grammar background.  And that's what I've learned through the writing of those journals, and yes, in the rereading of them years later:  I've learned over and over how often He's worked, even when I couldn't see it at the time.  And astonishingly, even as my hand was holding a pen and moving across a page.

"...for the Lord searches every heart and mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought.  If you seek Him, He will be found by you..."  1 Chronicles 28: 9

1 comment:

E said...

A great follow up to our earlier conversation.