It’s been over a year since I’ve written anything, at least publicly. My journal has gotten quite the workout, but I didn’t blog at all in 2015. I didn’t set out to take a year off from writing, it was purely accidental. Honestly, I didn’t really feel like I had anything to say. Normally that wouldn’t matter because I would still post out of a sense of duty or obligation. But if I learned anything in 2015 it’s that God’s not really concerned about the pressures I put on myself to perform, He just wants me to love Him and let Him love me with no strings attached. That’s a hard lesson for a girl whose identity has always been tied to her performance.
Every time I felt the pressure to post something I would ask myself a simple question… why? The answer was always the same, “because I feel like I should.” But my therapist told me to quit “shoulding” on myself. So, I’m trying.
And now… here I am. Writing again. I honestly wondered if I would ever be back here. The good news is, I’m not posting because I think I should. I’m posting because I want to.
Last summer I did something I do on a fairly regular basis, I went away for a weekend prayer retreat. What was different about this retreat was the structure, or I should say, lack of structure. Usually when I set aside a weekend for a prayer retreat I plan an agenda, pick out some deep theological books to read, and decided ahead of time what I’m going to be talking in depth to Jesus about. But this time I did none of those things. I just went.
On my way to the retreat center I decided to stop at Hobby Lobby. A few friends had introduced art journaling and art therapy to me and I decided I might take a few supplies with me. I bought some markers, Washi tape (because I have an addiction) and a roll of paper. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but God did.
When I arrived and got settled in my room I knew what I had to do, make a timeline of my life. I rolled out over 5 feet of paper, dividing it into 80 segments, each marking a year of my life (not that I’m hoping to die at 80, it just seemed like a good stopping point) and taped the paper to the wall. Over the next 3 days I asked God to help me remember whatever it was that He needed me to remember, and as the memories came I wrote them on the timeline.
As my scroll filled up, I noticed it was becoming quite depressing. There were a lot of really hard memories. Moments that I wish I could erase from my past, or at least from my memory. But there they were. Written down in black sharpie marker.
I asked God if there were any good memories, and He flooded my mind with them. Moments of laughter, friendship, feeling safe, feeling loved, feeling free, enjoying life and the people in it. I wrote those memories down too. Woven in and among the ugly memories were shining, joy filled moments. Why are they so much harder to recall?
By the end of my weekend the scroll was full, or should I say half full. Forty some years of memories, and forty some years of blank paper. There was my life, the good, the bad, and the unknown future.
I sat and stared at it for hours. Why did I do this? What was the point of writing it all down, of creating a visual scroll of my life? What was God trying to show me?
And then I remembered a verse from one of my favorite Psalms:
This scroll on the wall before me held the story of my life, and it’s a story that was written before I drew my first breath. It’s a story of days ordained for me by the One who loves me fiercely.
I’ll be honest, part of that was (still is) hard for me to reconcile. There are days on my story-line that I am convinced make God’s heart hurt for me. Yet, there they are. Written for me. And yet… I’ve rejected so many of my days. I’ve been angry, bitter, pouty, about so many of my days. I’ve yelled at God, stamped my foot, and asked “why me” too many times. There have been so many days when I have begged God for a different narrative, a different story.
But this story is mine. It was written for me.
Do I believe all of the hard things were God’s choice for me? No. I don’t. I think free will allows us to face some things we wouldn’t face if we lived in a world without sin. The question I was wrestling with wasn’t is God good or bad to write my story this way, but can I accept this story as mine? Can I embrace my life instead of fighting against it? Can I say, this is my story and the God that is writing it is good, even if there are moments (ahem, years) that aren’t?
Before I left for home that day I wrote down two things:
1. God is writing a story in me, for my good and for His glory.
2. I receive every moment of this story. It is mine and it is meaningful.
Do I believe these things? That day I didn’t. I knew it was truth. I knew the story being written was for my good and His glory, but I didn’t live like I believed it. I knew that until I received every moment of this story as mine it couldn’t be meaningful. Hard truths to accept, even harder truths to live.
It’s been about 7 months since I created that timeline. I’ve celebrated another birthday, filled up another line on my scroll with both good and bad moments. I’m learning to lean into my life. To hold it gently. To embraced it as mine. I’m reminding myself that while I might not like the page I’m on, I do trust the One who holds the pen. And the more I’ve quit fighting against my life the more I’ve grown to love the story, and the one who’s writing it.