I woke up this morning to the sound of Teddy (my soon to be brother-in-law) playing the guitar in the room next to mine. I realized that my subconscious had incorporated his music into my dreams--but that didn't ease the transition from sleep to awake. My throat was swollen, my nose was stuffy and the injury on my thumb was throbbing (the result of my poor cooking skills).
"Em, you probably want to get up. It's one." My sister Becca said softly.
"Actually, I'd like to stay asleep." I thought to myself and rolled over.
"There's coffee! Want me to bring you some?"
My head lifted from my pillow for the first time; aroused by the promise of caffeine. She knows me well enough to recognize that this slight movement in response was actually an enthusiastic affirmative.
I'm more of a silent communicator in the morning.
As I waited for Bec to bring me coffee I threw back the covers, welcoming the invigorating winter cold and the unforgiving light of the afternoon. I needed some help waking up today. The night before I had laid in bed for hours restlessly wrestling with countless distractions. Mostly relationships. My relationship with my new boyfriend which was going oddly well, yet was swiftly snow balling out of my control. My relationship with my sister which was about to change in two weeks when she marries the love of her life. My relationships with my old high school friends--how do I maintain friendships with people who knew me when I was a completely different person? The most unsettling of all were my thoughts and lack of feelings toward my relationship with God. All these other relational distractions had not only been disrupting my sleeping habits, but I had allowed them to keep me from focusing on the most important, most elusive and mysterious relationship of all--my relationship with Jesus.
For months my feelings and thoughts toward Jesus had been routine, lifeless and nearly painful. I hadn't heard from him and honestly I hadn't told him much either. I was busy. I was busy having new college experiences.
"Here you go sis." Becca's kind words interrupted the dark clouds of reflection that were gathering over my mind. The hot cup of coffee in my hands cleared my head and gave me the drive to leave my bed. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror hanging on my wall--extreme bed head.
"A bath it is." I mumbled to myself, secretly thankful for any excuse to escape to the private, warm confines of a bubble bath. I gathered my towel and with coffee in hand I headed for the bath tub.
I'm not sure what made me do it, but as I was passing the book shelf in the hallway I grabbing one of my old prayer journals and took it with me. Reading in the bath is not unusual for me at all but reading any of my old journals is very unusual. It's a painful experience for me to relieve the past and I try to avoid it with all my might. And here I was seeking the past. I was having a very off morning.
With the hot water swirling and rising around me, my mind grew sharper as the final remnants of sleep washed away. With coffee in hand I opened my old journal, fully expecting waves of regret, angst and past trauma to come spilling out, ripping open old wounds, but that is not what I found. Instead I found page after page filled with praises, gratitude and beautiful emotion written out by my own hand. I had filled that journal a year ago. I had filled that journal when I was a young rebellious, immature high schooler...and yet...
And yet the words of my high school self were full of passion, life and gusto. As a college student searching for life, living for passion and experience I hadn't felt as much gratitude, joy or simple peace as this journal revealed I used to feel.
Panic rose in my throat as stark realization slapped me in the face--I wasn't necessarily moving forward just because I was growing up. I had assumed one equaled the other, but I saw this wasn't always true. The spiritual health of my younger, dependent high school self was healthier and more rewarding than the spiritual health of my seemingly mature and independent self. Who was I fooling? Did I think that because I set my alarm early on a couple of Sundays without provocation that I would be rewarded with spiritual growth? Was I really thick enough to assume my heart was in the right place because I chose to grace a campus Bible study with my presence once a week?
Not only was my heart not in the right place...my heart was completely missing from my life. I had been living a life my high school self wouldn't be proud of. I had cracked open my chest, ripped the beating bloody life source from its home and placed it on ice; saving it for later. I didn't need it's pesky interference right now because I was having 'experiences'. I was exploring and searching and I knew my heart would only make it harder to enjoy myself; so I cut it out of the equation.
With this humbling awakening I hung my head and cried. Praying for forgiveness I asked God to thaw my heart out again. I knew it would be a painful process but I wanted to feel genuinely again. I invited conviction and rebuke and it did hurt. As I continued to read my old journal the tears continued to fall, mixing with the now lukewarm bath water. I came across an entry from the fall of my senior year that contained this line: Why should sweet Mrs. Smith have to hold her new born baby in her arms and watch it's precious life slip away? Why should millions of women feel so unloved and alone that they give themselves away to countless men? Why should thousands of children in my city live in slavery while I live comfortably?
I let my head slip under the water to muffle the cry that escaped from my lips. The words of my 18 year old self broke my heart, but I needed to be broken in order to feel again. These injustices that used to keep me up at night had been cut out of my consciousness when I had put my heart on the back burner. The words I had written over a year ago reminded me of the things that once moved me.
For months I have been so selfishly consumed with myself-my goals, my relationships, my needs, that I nearly lost who I was.
I laid in the bath till the water was cold, and I sobbed. Tears of repentance streaked my checks and were chased by tears of gratitude. Over whelmed and humbled by words written by a younger me.
I never saw the value in reliving the past. I never felt it was important to share my history with new friends because I was ashamed of the past, assuming that my present was far superior. I presumed that the past didn't exist outside my memory so it wasn't truly a part of me. But there I was, broken and brought back toward Christ by a memory. A shadow of a former self reminded me of my true self.
My fear and shame had blinded me from seeing the merit in my memories. Swallowing my pride I see how much there is to be gleaned from remembering. I'm grateful for the comforting and convicting words of the past me.