My wife, Diane, has kept a journal since 1976, all handwritten, and over 2000 pages long. This year, she decided to digitize it to make it more accessible, especially for our kids. So, every day, she spends some time typing the words into her computer.
It has been an interesting experience as she calls me ever so often asking “John, do you remember this?” or “We had to be a lot younger then. I cannot imagine doing all those things in one day now.” There really are many things I do not remember and but there are also memories that bring a smile to my face.
As we progress through our history, I notice an increasing tension. In the very near future, the entries will recount the evolution of my addiction. This is the period when my drinking and alcoholism accelerated into full throttle. And along with it came many behaviors of which were so full of sin that Jesus could have gone to the cross for me alone. Yes, the feelings of guilt and shame are still there.
God does not deal in coincidences, so I know this is boiling up during Holy week for a reason. Maybe it is to remind me that while my sins are forgiven, the terrible suffering that Jesus endured was a result of my sin. Maybe it’s the shame I will feel once the ugly story of my downward spiral into alcoholism becomes part of the computer file that can be easily accessed by my kids. Or maybe I have not completely felt that God has forgiven me.
Please understand, I know the passages like Psalm 103:12 As distant as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our rebellious acts from us. Or Isaiah 53:5 But it was because of our rebellion that he was pierced. He was crushed for the guilt our sins deserved. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. I believe what they say.
But as I hear Diane read off some of the entries in the journal, I can feel anxiety grow inside of me. I can feel a weight pushing me down. I know the memory of my sin. I feel the guilt of the dishonesty and drunkenness even these many years later. I hear Satan’s jeering “See. Do you believe me now? Your sins? Not even His death can wipe away the layers and layers of sin in your life. East to west are not far enough for you to hide from them. And John, don’t forget you are still sinning.”
When the weight of memories gets too heavy, I need confess that I am a sinner. That part Satan, the father of lies does have right. I cannot run and hide from my past. But that is where the truth takes a completely different path from the charges of Satan. Jesus’ death on the cross did pay for all my sins and those of the whole world. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 6:11.
There is more for me to lean on when it comes to the charges of Satan. The prophet Isaiah wrote that not only were the sins paid for, but also the guilt and shame that follows me around were healed through Jesus’ wounds. The separation from God caused by my sins was erased through Christ’s death. When Satan or my own sinful flesh attacks me with feelings of separation I need only to pray for strength to be turned back to the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice.
I know that my wife Diane must also be experiencing a return of the pain that she felt as my addiction tore apart our lives. I cannot go back and change those things but I can continue to be supportive and not let my anxiety turn into anger when she asks about my behaviors during that time.
I saw a shirt once with that said “If you bring up my past you should know that Jesus dropped the charges”. The Bible and my faith testify that is true. Emotion-filled memories are a wonderful gift from our creator God. But when negative emotions are connected to the memories, as I can feel now, they can also be challenging. When I worked as a counselor, one of the ongoing issues was dealing with memories of past events. A good number of the people had a goal of forgetting whatever the negative event was, but that rarely had any lasting positive outcome.
As we spent time together, we developed a process to work with memories which usually needed to be repeated quite a few times. The steps included acknowledging what happened, confessing any sin that was involved, repenting of the sin and then extending forgiveness to whomever needed it. In many cases, the goal of remembering hurtful things from the past without bringing up all the negative feelings was reached. But it took time.
OK, physician, heal thyself! I am realizing that I need to go over that process again–and probably a few times. As the ugly history is revealed in the journal, I need to take responsibility for my past, confess the sin that was there and ask for forgiveness. As the 12-Steps say, making amends may never be completely finished.
The other realization that just came to me is the journal records far more than my plunge into alcoholism. There are also the births of children, confirmations, graduations, weddings, the births, baptisms and confirmations of grandchildren, calls into the ministry, the entrance of parents and grandparents into heaven, vacations, retirements, and just some fun times. Oh, there is also recovery from alcoholism.
So in this Holy Week that is where I sit. Sounds like I have a lot of work to do. But what better time to come to better terms with my sinful past than in the time when I can most focus on the eternal gift of forgiveness I have because of Jesus death on the cross. What a wonderful Savior!
Thanks for stopping by. It has been a long time since my last post. I am praying I can get back on track with these as they help me to process things in my life. I hope you consider coming back. I will wait you and thanks for waiting for me.