I admit that I haven’t yet acquired the absolute fullness that I’m pursuing, but I run with passion into his abundance so that I may reach the purpose for which Christ Jesus laid hold of me to make me his own. I don’t depend on my own strength to accomplish this; however I do have one compelling focus: I forget all of the past as I fasten my heart to the future instead. I run straight for the divine invitation of reaching the heavenly goal and gaining the victory-prize through the anointing of Jesus. So let all who are fully mature have this same passion, and if anyone is not yet gripped by these desires, God will reveal it to them.Philippians 3:12-15 (TPT)
A few months ago, I stood surrounded by stacks of books.
For the umpteenth time in the 19 years I’ve owned this bookcase, I’d again removed every book from every shelf so it could be moved into another room.
I’d hit the point where I was tired, and as I sat down on the carpet to take a break, I figured now was as good a time as any to sort through the various stacks.
Reading and writing are passions of mine, and often how I learn and grow best. So it’s not a surprise that books are tools for me. I may read a book and be OK with letting it go, or loaning it out. And others are precious, kept on the book shelf so I can easily access it for future reference, study, and encouragement.
As I was sorting into piles of “yet to be read” and “this could be donated”, I came across three large, heavy books.
My high school yearbooks.
And as any good productive person does in the middle of a task, I dropped everything to sit cross-legged on the carpet, and heave all three into a pile on my lap.
When was the last time I looked through these? Or read the notes left inside? Or gazed at any of the pictures?
A lot has changed in the 19 years I’ve owned this bookcase. I would move this bookcase from North Carolina to Maine. From one apartment to another. From an apartment to a storage unit. From a storage unit to a house. From a house to a garage. And from the garage into our current home. And in each of those homes I would move that bookcase from one room to another, and maybe to another again.
A lot of life has taken place around this bookcase. A lot of life.
And with every move, every change, always these three heavy books would be part of the move. Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years.
I opened up the Freshman book first. And with it brought a flood of memories.
Here is the thing, my four years of high school had some incredibly painful and hurtful moments. Moments that cut so deeply they weren’t properly healed until my late twenties.
So as I slowly turned pages and read notes in all forms of color and penmanship, I felt myself falling backwards into a strange place. There were sparks of memories of friendships I once treasured. But there was also sadness and hurt at remembering the things I was struggling with back then.
The Sophomore book was second. Where the first book was full of notes and signatures and letters, this one contained very little. And suddenly I was thrust back into those painful memories. Things I know I have healed from, released, asked forgiveness for, and forgiven in others. But now there was a fresh attack on my mind and heart. I could feel my body tense, could feel my insides twisting. I closed the book and looked at the Junior one, debating if I should even open it.
The Junior book was bittersweet. Where there was more pain and heartache, there were many notes written to and for my son. He was born between junior and senior year, and as I read through notes and well-wishes, my heart continued to experience that remembered ache from long ago. Brewing within me was the temptation for my mind to start playing the dangerous “what if” game.
For several moments, I sat steeping in this whirlwind of emotion slowly rising to lead me away.
And then I heard a distinct and clear thought break through all the emotional noise building up. “Throw it away.”
Throw it away?
I stared at this heavy pile of books weighing down my legs. The different covers of green, gold, and red glaring at me with their thickness. How could I throw these away? I have moved these books for over 19 years.
“Throw it away”.
Well maybe the first two. But that last one, those notes to my son. Maybe I should keep that one…..
“Throw it away”.
I sat in that silence and starred at those books. I suddenly felt how heavy they were.
Tying me down to a person I no longer was. To a past I no longer lived. To a life that was no longer mine.
In my heart, I knew if I kept these books, no matter how long or how many years went by, the same thing would happen every time I opened them up. I would be tempted to fall into emotions, feelings, and thoughts, that were not helpful, beneficial, or rooted in the present truth of my life.
A physical injury over time heals, but may be prone to reinjury in the future. So why would I not protect my emotional healing with the same concern and attention I would use to protect my physical healing? Why would I keep these books?
I pushed the heavy books off my lap. I walked into the kitchen and grabbed a trash bag. I walked back into the room with stacks of books, and picked up those three heavy books I have carried with me for over 19 years, and dropped them with a BANG into the trash bag. Then I tied off the trash bag, lugged it all the way down the driveway, and heaved it into the dumpster.
If you’ve ever been weighed down by something unseen, it’s not until it’s lifted off of you that you can fully appreciate how heavy it was. With every step I took back towards the house, I felt lighter. I took a huge deep breath, and when I exhaled, I was firmly right back where I belonged. Here. This time. This place. This moment. Peace.
I walked back through the house to stand in the room with stacks of books. It all looked different. I was overcome to just speak out loud “Thank you Jesus”. Where moments before there was emotional turmoil brewing, now emotional gratitude poured in.
Not too long after this took place, I sat in on a sermon where I heard these words:
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.-Isaiah 43:18-19
[How many of you are] hoping for things to go back to normal? However when God starts to do a new thing, back to normal is bad because if you really think about it, you were complaining in that old normal!. . . in order to gain the new thing that God is doing it’s ahead, it’s not backwards. It’s not gonna be same! It shouldn’t be the same! We should be moving forward. Faith works in the direction that you look . . . If we try to move forward by looking backwards, we are going to fall.-Britt Hancock
I remember leaving church that day feeling I had received both a message of confirmation and preparation from the Lord. Confirmation as to where the thought to throw away the year books had come from. A call to preparation for the new season of life I’m entering into. I don’t want to miss God moments and God opportunities.
So go ahead, take those steps of faith, and throw away the “year books”.
Then forget the past, fasten your heart to the future. Run in the Holy Spirit with passion straight and forward into all that Jesus has for you. And trust God to reveal His Plan for your life and your future in Him.
In Love & Faith,