“All that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
-Clives Staples Lewis
I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the past year. With all of it’s tragedies and victories, with every memory that either haunts me or fills me with joy. For weeks, my minds has been racing (which is always inconvenient around exam time) with no sign of slowing down. Last week as I was in my bed finding it difficult to sleep, I began shuffling through all the boxes I brought back with me from school. (I wrote an entry about those at the beginning of the year, too.)
It’s an interesting feeling, looking at a nicely packaged summary of the year. This particular box had all my wall decorations in it, and as I ruffled through pictures and thumb tacks and album covers, I found a lot of the notes I’d received throughout the year. As I read through them again, I began crying with joy at the friendships I’d been blessed with and the beautiful, godly people I’d met over the course of these last 4 years.
I came across a card I’d received at the beginning of the year. Inside the card, there was no name to let me know who sent it to me, but I was overjoyed at what this person had to say. Reassuring me time and time again, and when I desired affirmation, I didn’t realize it but God supplied that through those who knew how to love me and did so unashamedly.
As I continued to pull out memories and joys, my hands came across Jordan’s funeral pamphlet. I relived that day all over again. With tears spilling, I remembered sitting in the pews surrounded by the best men I’ve ever met. I remember speaking about Jordan’s friendship and crumbling into the arms of Paul, Scott, and Katrina. We all fell apart together that day. And I remember carrying his body across the cemetery I so often visit, past every headstone, every name I’ve begun to memorize by walking through there so much. I remembered the pain, but I remembered the joy I’d experienced, as well. I remember laughing around the table at the reception. I remember seeing Thomas again all those nights following Jordan’s death and hugging my brother who’d finally come back to us after so long away. And I remembered her. I remembered watching her try to sing the words to the familiar hymn at the graveside service, but I watched the words get caught in her throat. And I remembered the emergency room what seemed like ages ago. And I remembered what betrayal felt like. And I remember that was one of the few times I ever saw Jordan cry.
I looked across the room in the closet and saw the old blue box, now rusting, where I used to keep all of my memories.
The once vivid blue paint over the metal box is chipping now, revealing the rust underneath. The lock was broken long ago, so I stuck an ink pen into the hole and wiggled it until it broke free. And I dug and dug through memories from middle and early high school. The trinkets I’d collected were the same as they were when I’d put them there years earlier. I ran across a note I wrote to myself in that familiar writing style I used to have, stating the obvious at every turn with the vocabulary of a child. I wrote of my problems and frustrations, the secrets I kept and the sins that hounded me that I never thought I would be free of. I wrote about them in a very clean, polished, removed way, as to avoid actually facing any of them. And I wrote about my love for that one Carrie Underwood song everybody always talked about….my how times have changed. And I addressed the letter to “Self.” Ended it with with a desperate plea that the next time I read this letter, things would be 100 times better.
So, it had probably been 7 years since I wrote that. I sat in amazement, realizing I had just read something I’d written to myself 7 years ago…I hadn’t thought about that letter in almost a decade. And so I did what any incredibly introspective and insomnia ridden human being would do…I wrote back.
Unlike the Stephen of my youth, I wrote in excruciating detail the events that unfolded in the years after I’d written that letter to myself. I didn’t hold back on any secrets, feelings, regrets…I bared all in an attempt to make sense of the last 7 years of my life. And as I wrote, things became clearer and I saw the world without the rose colored lenses I’d grown so accustomed to. And in my story, I saw the hand of God moving. I saw Jesus, the only desirable thing in me slowly but surely becoming the only thing I desire.
I saw my life fall apart and come back stronger in the arms of the One who is stronger than I am. And every moment I cried for some kind of clarity came running back. And though I have not arrived as someone who has all the answers, I was finally beginning to see the truth. I finally saw my life for what it was: a precious gift that is totally and completely out of my control, and was only safe in the arms of someone stronger than myself. I was moved to write and write and write until I saw God work. And I did. Lastly, this is what came out when reflecting on my life:
I have kept all my gods close to my heart,
I have held them to my chest
Drank them in between heavy sighs and staggered breaths. But I relinquish them to your all consuming power,
And to the wonders of your awe inspiring love.
Breathe on me, Holy Spirit
And turn all my trophies to dust.