Confession: I was going to just put a big Temporarily Out of Business sign on this blog. I am in the final steps of completing a book I have been working on forever, and my focus has shifted. The book calls me constantly– when I’m cooking, driving, working, even sleeping– or trying to. Last night I got up after flipping around like a fish on a deck for an hour and reached for a scrap of paper and pen, hoping my scrawl would make sense in the morning. It did, to me only. It’s consuming, especially now that I can see the finish line, I can see an actual book with a cover and pages inside.
So there is some truth to that. Blogging has been edged out of my field of vision, for now. But the bigger truth is the book turns me into a Monster and I’m afraid to come out, to let people see me. Of course, my husband gets to see the Monster. You can ask him, but I’m sure he doesn’t see it as a privilege. I scare myself, then I’m on my knees asking God, “What is wrong with me?”
In Mary Carr’s book, The Art of Memoir, she notes,
“In some ways, writing memoir is like knocking yourself out with your own fist.” Yep, in a lot of ways. Then you wake up on the floor and have to climb back to your feet, back to the past that calls you.
“I’m not done with you yet!”
It’s made me think a lot about reconciliation, or how I can be friends with my own ghosts.
I go down to the county jail every week and sit around a table with a group of women in colored jumpsuits and we talk about this often. They are literally wearing their past mistakes, at least one of them, so it’s an easy subject to approach. So is a sleeping monster. As I sit there with my Bible in hand, I realize I often wear a colored jumpsuit too. I am captive to my past.
Forgive. I say it a lot. It’s a prickly subject to tackle with a group of people who have experienced immeasurable pain at the hands of people they should’ve been able to trust. Or the girl whose brother died in her arms from a gunshot wound. Forgive. If we don’t, we are chained to the past, a short, thick chain. I have experienced the phenomenal freedom and healing that comes from this simple act of obedience. I forgave my father, I forgave my son’s murderers. Why can’t I forgive myself for good and slay the Monster that keeps arising from the smoking ashes of my past?
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters
has been thrown down to earth—
the one who accuses them
before our God day and night. Revelation 12:10 NLT
This Enemy is activated every time a soul says Yes to Jesus. Sure, non-Christians wrestle with the past too. But the Enemy knows we are forgiven and that our pardon is forever. His job is to keep us from realizing we are free, that the door has been unlocked all along.
“God’s most powerful revelation is of His grace.”
I found this quote in the midst of my son, Spencer’s papers. It was just like him to jot down thoughts, often profound ones, in the midst of lists of things to do. Prayer lists in between “oil change” and “taxes.” This statement was easy to pass by, but it caught me, like God was saying Pay attention here!
Grace. The word all on its own brings a sense of freedom and relief, like you want to breathe it. Inhale Grace, exhale Redemption. Maybe it’s that simple. Powerfully and profoundly simple.
It takes guts to look back and be honest. It takes the mercy of God to not let it kill you. And it takes the boundless grace of God to turn it into something beautiful. But the Beautiful is His – His righteousness, His glory along with all of the praise. I still have to look in the mirror every day and say, “You again.” I don’t see beauty or honor, but maybe I can at least see a woman who is free. I don’t have to befriend the ghosts – I can leave them where they are, behind me – with the colored jumpsuit. And then I can show the same grace to others.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have laid hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
…and finish the book.