I have often joked with friends how thankful I am that Facebook and all these other social media channels were not around when I was young because I did not need video documentation of all the dumb stuff I did. And yet, here I was, reliving all those dumb decisions in countless journal entries. I wasn’t reliving these memories through pictures but my own actual thoughts. Let me tell you- reading your own thoughts is worse!
When I was in third grade apparently I talked a lot. I mean A LOT. I talked so much, that my teacher recommended to my mom that I start keeping a journal, so that maybe HOPEFULLY I would get some of my thoughts out through that medium, and spare her ears a tiny bit. What a wonderful yet painful gift this would be to me in the future.
Here I sat a couple decades later, on a self-imposed retreat at a small cabin in the middle of no where, flipping through the pages of well worn journals. It was definitely more bitter than sweet as I cringed though years of my emotions and thought processes through my juvenile years. How often I wanted to reach through the journal and shake my young self. And it wasn’t just your run-of-the-mill immature ramblings of an adolescent. My younger years were full of toxicity and insecurity. I was constantly looking for the next boy, the next relationship to give me value and worth. Page turn after page turn I read of rejection, abusive relationships, naivety and destructive patterns. I was a perpetrator at times as much as I was a victim. And this wasn’t from a bird’s eye view. This was looking straight through the eyes and heart of a broken girl. Word for painful word.
It’s hard enough reliving regrets and shame through memories. This was a different level. I thought about quitting this “walk down memory lane” all together. I could just throw the books back into the box and never look at them again. Or better yet into the fire pit.
Somewhere deep down, though, I knew God was calling me to find something in the wreckage. He wanted me to remember things I had forgotten. Lies, the origination of toxic patterns, damaging thought processes; there were experiences and words spoken over me that I had long forgotten yet breathed under the surface, wreaking havoc in my life. Rejection triggers, boughts of insecurity and people pleasing- I came cross root after root, thought after thought that over time became so deeply ingrained in me, that I was unknowingly operating out of them. Like a kind of auto pilot. Somewhere along the way, the pain had been too great, and my consciousness said “PEACE OUT!” This began a pattern of forgetting. Forgetting emotion, Forgetting pain. Forgetting who I was. Forgetting dreams I had. As together as I looked on the outside, on the inside I was shattered and clinging to dear life to keep it all together.
God knew that unless I gathered the pieces and saw them for how HE saw them, I would continue to struggle with healing. I would continue to disassociate. I would continue to push things down and avoid.
But it was overwhelming. And I faced the brokenness I had tried so desperately to avoid.
Tears of regret and disgust rolled down my cheeks and felt like they would never end. Lord, can I ever really be free of all this? Can I ever live fully and apart from all these things that I’ve done. Am I really so different than this girl on the pages, or does the destructive tendencies still live in me, waiting for the perfect moment to emerge?
The fluttering of wings in my peripheral vision distracted me from my thoughts. I looked over and a small butterfly had landed on my notebook. Just beyond that butterfly, from that vantage point, I noticed a garden flag on the porch that had the picture of a giant monarch butterfly on it. And in one moment, a glimmer of hope. A message of love. I felt seen and understood. And my heart exhaled.
There is a transformation process that God wants to take us through but we have to trust the process. God didn’t cause the chaos in my life, but He could redeem it.
You see, a butterfly doesn’t muster up its own strength or courage to turn from a caterpillar into its latter elegantly winged self. The transformative process that happens inside the cocoon is part of what makes its life complete. And, what is done in the work of the cocoon is final. Does the caterpillar know that it is undergoing such a drastic transformation? Or does it simply submit to the process, trusting that there is something greater at work? Interestingly enough, even after the transformation is done, as the butterfly emerges it doesn’t pop out and take flight immediately. It has to heal. It has to recover. It has to let its wings strengthen before it can take flight.
The work that God does in our lives, the redemptive, restorative work was complete on the cross in Jesus. Done. But there is a transformative process that we walk in when we surrender that goes beyond salvation. Facing trials, being complete in Jesus isn’t only about persevering through future trials, but having the strength to acknowledge wounds, incorrect thought pattens, places shame an insecurity and letting the cross do the work of transforming those places too. If we are made new in Him we will never go back to who we once were. Yet, if we don’t gather the scattered pieces and let Holy Sprit heal them, we lack knowing the fullness of His love, His healing and ultimately, the fullness of walking in in freedom.
I have a lot more healing to do. I have more journals to read. But I know the ending to them. Through that lens of hope realized I can see that a gracious loving God never gave up on me. He loved me right where I was. And as I begin to love more like Jesus loves, I can start extending grace to that broken girl on the pages of these journals, and I can love her a little more too.
James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.