For those of you who don’t know Jessica Longino, my best friend and Wesley Intern, she writes everything down. Seriously. Every prayer, every thought, every thing that happens every day. She’s been doing this since I met her back in 2007. Then she tucks away her journals on a shelf and never looks at them again. That always struck me as odd. About a month ago, God led her back to her writing. I asked her to talk about her experience about remembering how to remember on 12stones. You can see more of her precious heart here on her blog.
About a month ago, God gently told me that if I wanted to see Him face to face I was going to have to face myself. That night I gazed at the yellow street lights and the neon letters outside of my bedroom window and began to ask God to help me face myself, having no idea what that would look like. The result has been one of our grandest adventures yet, and it can be summed up in a single word: REMEMBERING.
Gradually memories began popping into my head. Driving down the road my mind jumped back three years to an Encounter Service at IHOP-Atlanta. I filled with the intense vulnerability and passion of that moment. Then I would shake my head and turn up the music. No turning back ever. Only being present now and moving forward.
But then it would pop into my head again.
And finally I responded.
“NO. I hate going back to this. I hate this. This is the moment I poured my heart out to you without holding back. This is when I laid it all on the line only to watch the ground crumble beneath my feet. This moment makes me feel stupid.”
He pushed back. I could feel Him inviting me, pressing me, drawing me to come and to let Him show me something more…things that I couldn’t see. I could feel I was wrong – that there was more – but I was too afraid to look. I didn’t want to see the shame and the stupidity. I didn’t want to see the foolishness and the immaturity. I didn’t want to watch myself be destroyed and deceived all over again.
So I kept turning up the music.
Over time, different memories started popping into my head. Flashbacks to conversations in airports, endless nights in the prayer chapel, pennies on the wall, hours of babble, dancing that left me on my knees, hands and hearts and WORSHIP, the back pew in Hill Chapel, sliding down the wall in IHOP, moments on the floor underneath chairs, those precious words in those precious corners, the top bunk in PiPhi, that little mattress and the tile floor in Mussoorie, India, white lace tops, backroads at night and open skies and nose to nose on the floor of 2Story. The more the moments were brought up, the more I shut them down.
The more I shut them down, the more my relationship with God was brought to a halt. He was present and He was speaking but I was not ready to jump into what He had for me. So we were at a standstill. Prayer became boring because there was no moving forward. Worship became stale because I refused to respond to the invitation He was continually putting before me.
One night at the end of September I was driving around with a caramel latte, blaring the new Mumford&Sons CD, trying to process the internal struggle when I suddenly realized what was happening: I was settling. Nothing irks me more than complacency. My only choice was to jump in to what He had been continually inviting me into for weeks. I had to let Him take me back. It was time to remember.
So I looked at the shelf of journals and the overwhelming amount of word documents that contain every detail of the past three years. And I looked. And I looked. For two weeks I looked at them and didn’t know how to get myself to open them. At one point in those two weeks Katie came to Athens to celebrate three years of knowing Judge, and after their date at ChooChoo she came rushing into the apartment and demanded that we get out my journals and figure out the exact day she met Judge. So we did. And even as she read through them I couldn’t get myself to look at my own words.
Then one Sunday morning, I woke up and I was ready. I packed up my stack of journals, put on a cute dress (because you gotta feel pretty when you are about to go on an adventure), grabbed my headphones (cant function without those), and went downtown. I could already feel life pumping through me again. The stale mate was ending.I spent hours that day reading through my journals starting in April of 2009.
What I found was beautiful.
I’ve been adventuring through my journals for two weeks now. And I can’t even begin to fully explain what is happening as a result. They read like novels. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t some insane story about some person that I have never met. This is ME. I am reading about ME. These experiences are mine. And while I lived them, I never let myself go back to them.
There were three main things that were keeping me from wanting to remember:
1.) going back to the memories will mean falling back in maturity and in freedom
2.) that God has nothing good to say about them or to show me about them
3.) that I will be ashamed of what I find when I look back
NONE of that has happened. It has actually been quite the opposite. As I walk through the details all over again, my memories are changing. I am seeing my life, my memories, my moments, through Him and everything is transforming. At some point I adopted a mentality of “forgetting what lies behind and pressing on to what lies ahead” in a way that God never intended. I have lived in a mndset of coming to Him new each day. New day. New me. New mercies. New new new. But He never changes. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the God of Abraham and the God of me, and while His mercies are new every morning He is consistently the same. He is faithful always.
One of His most valuable tools in building our faith and trust is the the act of remembering. We remember His faithfulness then so we can trust His faithfulness now. I kept trying to start at ground zero everyday. Yesterday doesn’t matter, only today does. But actually yesterday matters a lot. Because what I am finding as I look back is this: God was still God yesterday, and He still had everything to do with yesterday. I am finding that all the things I have categorized as “failures” weren’t actually failures at all. I am finding that all the memories I have labeled as “losses” weren’t losses at all. I am seeing that the things I have marked in my mind as shameful are actually glorious and the moments that I blame Him for missing were actually consumed in His presence. He was there. He always has been. He was working even amidst what I thought was a mess and a fail. And now I can see it.
I am seeing myself for the first time. I am finally understanding who the freak I am, and I’m learning to love it. I no longer stand at ground zero when I come before God. I come standing on testimony after testimony of His faithfulness to me…standing on a foundation of deep intimacy and real encounters that cannot be taken from me (although I never knew they were there before)…standing on memory after memory of His victory, His unfailing love, and His complete goodness.
Tonight I went to Wesley’s Annual Chili Cook-Off. While there, my friend James went through a lot of effort to make sure that we got at least one picture together before the night was over. Afterwards I gave him a
hard time about taking so many pictures and joked that he was just being sentimental because he is moving to Florida soon. He laughed and told me, “I knooowww, but I don’t want to forget!” And for once I could understand that desire.
Roots are important. Now, I have something to stand on.