Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Night At the Museum: No Naked Cavemen Here

Since I've begun writing again, I've noticed a distinct change in the way I think. It's given me a reason to sit down and really contemplate who I used to be and who I am now, something I think we as a species need to do more frequently. It's so easy to get caught up in a cycle of defeat because we think to ourselves, "I've screwed up again, just like always," or "Gee, here I am at the same place I've always been."

As I was helping my sister plant a vegetable garden a few days ago (and realizing why most people buy their produce from a nice, air conditioned building instead of growing it themselves - insert revelation of hot sun, sweaty armpits, dirty knees and a burnt scalp here) we had a short conversation about how we are nothing like the people we used to be. It was one of those serious talks that finds its into an afternoon of laughter born from shared misery of some sort. (That's how we handle difficult or unpleasant situations in my family - kill it with sarcasm.) A conversation with an unspoken shared agreement that we much prefer the women we are now to the former versions we walked around in.

It hasn't been an easy journey of self-reflection, let me tell you. There are times when I literally face-palm when I think about some of the stupid, selfish, hateful and reckless things I have lurking in the murky depths of my past. I can say with heart-felt honestly that it is a miracle I am still alive. Meditating on who you used to be isn't a pleasant thing to do, and actually not something that I think needs to be done all the time, but it is something that I think we need to learn to take more time for.


In my last entry, I spoke a little about contrast. Sometimes we cannot appreciate the progress or journey we have made through life without comparison to where it all started, or to the mile markers along the way. I don't think it's healthy to pull up a bench and sit in any one bend in the road for a long period of time, but I do think that a short trip down memory-lane every now and again is wise. Our histories are just a museum full of dioramas depicting scenes from the past, a museum I lived in for far too long. It is so easy to buy our admission ticket and then make it a home rather than a place to walk through and learn from.

This time around I've done it all differently. I haven't set up camp nor have I walked through with my head down avoiding all the scary bits (like partially nude cave men - who thought that was a good idea?). Instead, I have walked through at a moderate pace and stopped to look into some of the more poignant memories that shaped who I was. I compared those scenes to who I am now and gained an appreciation of something. Even though I am no where near the person I am going to be, I am no where near the person I used to be. That's something I think we forget to remember. We aren't locked in those frozen moments of time where we made bad decisions or we were rocked by something that was done to us. We aren't trapped in a dark museum with only those scenes lit up to guide our way.

Not all of my memories are bad ones - I don't want to sound like I was a destitute street urchin without a soul in the world to call my family or a place to call home. I grew up with a family that, despite our struggles, managed to laugh so hard we cried and loved one another so fiercely we could make it through anything together. I have a life that is equal parts comedy as it is tragedy. Equal parts bright joy as pitch black sadness. I think it's a story we can all relate to. The thing that is different is how I am looking at the story board of it all.

Life isn't just one genre of story. It's all genres. While some situations play huge roles in what direction our path takes, no one scene defines all of who we are. You cannot judge the tone of a novel by one single chapter, even by many chapters. You can only determine its story by reading the whole thing. That's how I am seeing life. It's a huge War and Peace monster of a book that isn't even close to being finished yet. It's started out with hopeful optimism, dived into confusing bits of emotion and came back out of the valley again - wash, rinse, repeat. The character at the end is so much wiser and stronger than the character at the beginning.

Look, I understand that all of this can be pretty elementary when it's read by someone who has walked out a lot of life. I get that it's sometimes painfully basic and some of you might wonder why I even bother to write it out, but please understand that I am finding a subtle, almost hidden beauty in this thing we call a life. It's taking the time to come to a revelation of why God even put us here in the first place. It's reconciling our ideal of how we think things should be, or how they are "supposed" to be, to reality and learning to love it anyway. It's taking all of these verses and sermons and messages I have heard my entire life and suddenly in a moment's time having it click into place. It's realizing that those "aha!" moments don't ever stop if you keep moving forward.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It's that. It's coming across a passage I have read countless times throughout my life and finally understanding what it has to say beyond just the black and white text of it. It's reading that and understanding the transformation doesn't stop when I receive Christ, it keeps going and going and going as I keep walking with Him. It's the freshness when I walk by a painful scene from my past and He leans over and says, "Hey, remember when we experienced this together? Remember when you made that choice and ended up broken and hurting? Here, let Me tell you how much I love you and how I cried right there with you. Let Me show you how I protected you and comforted you even though watching you make that choice was so hard for Me. Let Me remind you that when I bled and died for you, I was thinking about this moment and all of the others you went through and will go through in the future. I was thinking about the moments of shame and sin and I died so that you could have freedom from it. All you have to do is come to Me, just simply come and we will turn the lights off over this scene forever, you never have to come back to it."

It is a constant, perpetual washing of cool water over my head as each step I take with Him in it is a step away from the shame and the hurt and the guilt. We never have to stop and stay in one place. There is nothing that can hold you there in the midst of that battle when you reach over and grab His hand and let Him walk you out of it. There is nothing keeping that wound open when you are honest with Him and put Him into those scenes with you. There is nothing when you actually talk to Him like a brother or friend - even railing against it all. Talk to Him, tell Him how you felt then, tell Him how you feel now because He knows it anyway. Tell Him so that you open the door for Him to heal and comfort you. He won't do it unless you ask because He loves you enough to wait until you come to Him. He doesn't force you to Him, He wants your love freely given, not required or commanded from you.

I look back at those scenes frozen in time in my mind and I have begun to place Jesus in each and every one of them....even the ones I am ashamed of. I put Him there and I walk into it and talk to Him about those moments. I ask for Him to forgive me if I need to be forgiven and I ask Him to heal the damage that was done in areas where I had no control. He rewrites the code of my heart and then He simply shuts of the light and we move on. In that verse it says that "the new is here." Here. Not "there" as we walk beyond that moment, but here. Here is a place that we always are. It is a place that walks with us, wherever we go. The new is always new if we remember where it comes from. It's as if God never lets the new car smell disappear from our lives. He takes all the worn places and makes them look as though they have never been touched. He will end the chapter and start afresh if we let Him, and He will always make it a better story.

Looking at the past can be so, so rewarding if you don't do it alone. Don't let yourself get glued to the floor in front of a memory and live a life missing out on the beautiful memories He's already got planned for you. It's time to shut the lights off over the ancient history in your past and turn one the lights of the scenes ahead.

1 comment:

  1. awesome Jess! you are a great writer, I enjoy reading your posts and always seem to find something I relate to as well. Keep putting Jesus in everything- you are doing a great job!!