• Abigail Youmans • November 11, 2020 •
I’m a memory hoarder. I cherish moments, places, or anything else that leads to keepsakes, souvenirs, which leads to the inevitable purge when there is simply no space for more. That purge is always tough, because to me, there is value in everything. A rock (or three, or seven) from Haiti. The AIC guide from a Chicago day trip. The flight ticket from my husband’s and my first Christmas vacation. Storing artifacts away in the beautiful pine box my grandpa made for me when our family did a handmade Christmas then opening it on a rainy day is one of my favorite things to do. Going for a walk down memory lane is fun. but sometimes in the middle of stopping to smell the flowers I have to pull weeds and prune overgrown vines.
The pinnacle of my memory-keeping has always been journaling. Every night before bed I would document the day and its developments. No matter how big or small, it was all somehow significant. From age 10 to 23 I completed probably 10 journals. All different sizes, shapes, colors (but ALWAYS college rule), pages detail the events, people, and memories that shaped who I am. Writing down everything is good for internal processors helping to work through issues, ideas, and anything else that is at the forefront of your mind
This summer I found myself in my parents’ barn and looking through things that I hadn’t packed up and moved with me when I got married. There were antique cameras, purses, books, and so much more. I dug through most of it and found what was worthy of taking with me and what would find its way to Goodwill. I left quite a bit behind, saving a future purge for a rainy day (or when my dad tells me it’s time to come get my stuff).
Then I went into their house for boxed up clothes and shoes to donate that I never took with me. Under my old bed I found a hat box filled with my worn scripts from high school plays, and of course, the journals. For some reason I’d been teary eyed and sad that day and couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but when I opened those journals, I laughed and laughed. I couldn’t even make it through one whole entry. They were terrible—I was terrible. Simultaneously insecure and proud, an Oscar-level drama queen—it was rough.
After sad tears turned to the result of laughing too hard, I wiped them away and closed up the books in the box and wondered what I was going to do with these. The bulky notebooks took up too much space at my parents’ house and there was no way my tiny house had enough storage for them. I knew they had to be thrown away.
You’d think that parting with those ancient scrolls would be like parting with a piece of my heart, but strangely enough, they were thrown out with pride and without a second guess. Because I know who I am now, I don’t have to look back on who I once was.
The Lord does the same for us and calls us to put down our old ways. Isaiah 43:18 says, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.” Specifically here, he was speaking to the Israelites who may have longed for a time when they were in Babylonian exile. In that horrible time, they longed for “the good ol’ days,” even though days in Egypt also had imprisonment, slavery, and oppression. “Stop looking to the past!” he essentially told them. “There is nothing for you there! I’m giving you new hope!”
He goes on to say in verse 19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” The promise of hope and life to the Israelites (still under the law at the time) was merely a glimpse of what was to come. Once Jesus came and fulfilled His purpose on earth, that hope only increased.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.” – Romans 6:4.
That is so incredibly awesome. That the Lord who recognizes our sin and poured out his love for us through Jesus’ sacrifice, does not hold those things against us. So why do we do that to ourselves?
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
The girl who wrote those journals captured growth that’s important and rewarding to look back on, but that’s not me anymore. Holding on to those items, my past self, and memories wasn’t going to be beneficial in any way—it was going to take up coveted space in my home and heart. All of those things happened for a reason, but keeping them around and cringing at them every now and then would do more harm than good. “Why did I think/say/do that thing,” is not something that needs to take up space in my mind. I’m thankful for the mess that I was, but I’m not going to carry that with me.
If you are carrying the weight of something (or many things) that happened or who you were long ago, my prayer for you is that you can lay those burdens down at the feet of Jesus—the one who died for those regrets and mistakes, the one who sees past them to the person you are now and the person he’s created you to be.