A few days ago, my mom gave me a large stack of papers. She had been cleaning out some closets in the house and came across a variety things from my past. Things like report cards, notes, artwork, stories and other stuff like that. I brought it home and spent some time soaking in my past and reviewing who I was and who I am now. It was a pretty revealing time for me.
Something that I’ve realized as I grow older is that my memory sucks. I remember some random, weird details about my past, but there are a lot of blank and fuzzy spaces left to be explored. I tend to focus on the here and now, forgetting that I was once a little boy who was learning about life, navigating heartbreak, absorbing harassment from bullies and attempting to avoid the pain of my parent’s divorce. I forget that the concrete pad and basketball hoop in my driveway acted as a safe counselor, providing a consistent outlet to release my emotions and imagine a successful future. I forget about the great times spent with friends, the loving sacrifices of my single mom and my enthusiastic, always-cheering dad at basketball games. I need to be intentional about remembering stuff like this because these experiences have added to the story of who I am.
To put it simply, I’m like an onion. Onions are a common metaphor used for illustrating the complexity of our personalities and rightly so! As you look at an onion, you basically just see the outer skin and it’s round shape. Once you peel back the skin and slice it in half, you notice the many layers hidden inside. Piece by piece, you can peel that vegetable down, eventually revealing it’s core. My memory works like that. I operate as a whole onion most of the time, forgetting that I have layers and depth and experiences that have molded me into the “onion” that I am! It’s beautiful really.
Sure, not all of the layers hold awesome memories…in fact, some of them are quite depressing. I found crappy report cards with “needs improvement” plastered all over them and “I’ll be sure to tell Ryan not to pick on Paul anymore” notes from school administrators…I also found drawings and cards negatively written by a sad, angry boy…..me.
There were many positive things too, like encouraging letters from my mom and redeeming “Paul is making great improvements” notes from teachers and other things that represented my growth and ability to change. Man, God sure had His wide, heavy, protective, loving hands on my life. He still does. I’m Grateful for that.
We all have a story friends. We all have fond memories mixed with not-so-fond memories. We all are human, imperfectly stumbling our way through life, doing our best. Let’s not be so hard on ourselves, on our past lives, on our times of “falling short.”
There’s something to be said for facing our own selves head on. To frame the picture of our lives and proudly display it for all to see. We are each a unique painting, colors creatively, chaotically, yet purposefully splatted on a canvas. We’re not meant to be hidden or subdued or ashamedly slid under the bed….we’re meant to shine, mixing our colors with those around us. I need to work on this more.
You see, I believe many of the memories that I’ve forgotten have been intentionally buried deep to avoid pain, not lost forever…maybe they’re resting on God’s lap…or sitting in a jar on His nightstand and He’s sitting there with a big fatherly smile, handing them back to me as He knows I can handle them….as He knows others can handle them….yeah, I’ll go with that.