Monday, January 4, 2016

Here and Now

He that hath so many causes of joy, and so great, is very much in love with sorrow and peevishness, who loses all these pleasures, and chooses to set down upon his little handful of thorns.  Enjoy the blessings of this day, if God sends them; and the evils of it bear patiently and sweetly:  for this day only is ours, we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow.*

I did something yesterday that I never thought I would do.  I burned all of my journals, all the notebooks that I have been writing in, pretty much daily, for the last seven years -- 70 journals in all.  They went up in flames in the fire pit in my backyard and the ashes floated away on the breezes.  And today, a gentle rain is putting out the last of any smoldering embers.

I thought I would keep them forever, pass them along to my children to read, so that they would know what these years had been like for me.  A lot of significant events were described in those journals, a lot of questions asked and answered, and a lot of joy and gratitude expressed.  But there was also a lot of pain and negativity recorded in those journals.  So I had to wonder:  Do I really want my children to know about all of that?  What good purpose would that serve?  So that that negativity and pain would then become a part of their lives too?

That's not something I want.  They will have enough to deal with in their own lives without having someone else's life piled on top of it. 

And seriously, I can't imagine anyone wanting to read approximately 4500 pages of anything in order to understand me better, least of all my children!  I don't even want to read them again!  So why keep them?

Well, the other reason I wanted to keep them was because I wanted my children to see how present God was in that day to day life. Truly, God is there in those journals.  I don't think anyone who read them would have doubted that. That was a harder reason to reconcile, as I thought about doing this. 

For, I truly wish my children were more aware of God's presence in their lives.  And I kept thinking that if they read these journals, they might begin to believe God would be as fully present in their lives as God has been in mine.  And then they might turn to God, as I did, during the highs and lows of their lives. 

But one thing I've learned over these last seven years is that I cannot pass my faith on to anyone.  The only thing I can do is point someone to God.  And that doesn't take 4500 pages; that just takes a word or two, here and there.  And since I'm not dead yet, I can still do that for my children.

Besides, the significant events, questions, joys and struggles that make up my life are totally different from what will make up another person's life. Their needs and beliefs are also different.  And so, God's presence will be totally different in another person's life than God is in my life.  Why would anyone think anything else?

My fourteen year old son is flabbergasted.  He doesn't understand why I destroyed something that I put so much time and work into creating.  It seems like a total waste to him.  And I have to admit that as I got ready to burn them I thought about the ancient desert monk who spent his days weaving baskets only to tear them all apart when he had used up his supply of reeds and start all over again -- like the Tibetan monks who spend days creating a sand mandala, only to brush the grains of colored sand away in the end.

But truly, the journals served their purpose (as perhaps the basket-weaving did for that monk and the sand mandalas do also).  For the reason I journal is to address my thoughts and concerns, to bring them into my consciousness, so that I can seek relief from them, as well as gain better understanding and guidance regarding them.  And this never failed to happen.  They were my prayers asked and answered.

That will still continue. I don't plan to stop journaling.

However, I feel a little strange, now that it's done.  It's an interesting feeling to lose an historical record of your life, proof that you were there and those things actually happened.  I imagine it's a bit like discovering that you have no birth certificate, as a friend of mine did when she was about to get married.   Much of my identity was in those journals.  Now it's only in my head.

So I wonder...  Who am I now?

I guess it's time to find out.

May the peace
which passes understanding
be with you 


* Jeremy Taylor, quoted in Daily Strength for Daily Needs, Jan 3.