I asked Randy if reading my last post made him want to start keeping a journal. He glanced over at the 5-ft stack of books, and without even considering it, said, “no.” We both agreed there wasn’t really much reason for him to write down anything about our life… I would venture to say that about 1/3 of the written information in those books is about him.
Which reminds me of the most important story that I have pertaining to keeping a journal. I can’t believe I left this out.
I have to go back in time about 12 years ago to where the story starts.
Randy and I had a very complicated relationship while we were dating. He was 14 years older than me, had been single for a long time, living alone, and was used to his own way of doing things. He was my first love, and though I was really slow to come around to the realization that yes, I wanted to spend my life with him(!), when I finally saw that he was the future that I wanted, I gave him my heart.
I think this scared him. The word “marriage” had a finality that I think he wasn’t sure he could commit to yet. We, after all, hadn’t had a case of love at first sight, where flowers bloomed in every step we took… It wasn’t clear to our families and closest friends if we were making the best decision by being together. I didn’t trust anyone’s advice in the matter, and I spent so much time worrying and praying and fretting over the future–if being with Randy was the right course for my life. I think he felt the same way.
The stress of it all got so intense that we decided to take a break from one another. In my mind, it wasn’t an official “break-up”–I still cared for him and could not imagine ever loving anyone else.
During this short window of time, he started seeing someone else. It was stupid and short-lived, and in retrospect he knew it was a mistake. He told me about it after he had already severed all strings with this other girl. I felt my heart break. And I knew it was over for good between us. I didn’t see how I could ever trust him again.
I tried to readjust my life. I cried in my room and told my mom that he was a jerk. I was ready to move on, to start over. I could not imagine trying to ever love somebody again. I turned to my journal, wrote everything I felt. My words were like tears, pouring out on the page. And I found some relief in writing.
A few weeks later, Randy came back around. I think this is when he really started to realize how much we loved each other. He asked me to forgive him.
Forgiveness was not something that I ever felt I was very good at. Growing up, I was the type of person who would go in my room and slam my door and cry when I got mad. I could never talk about it. I would just close up and suffer through it until the intensity passed. And I would never mention it again. I grew up aware of the fact that many women grow up to be bitter, no matter what life has passed down to them. I carefully observed how women that I loved and respected were still carrying the burdens of hurts that had happened to them twenty years ago. I was always afraid this would be my fate. I didn’t want to become a bitter woman–but at the age of 21, with a broken heart that didn’t seem like it could ever be completely mended, it seemed that I might be headed on a straight course for that destination.
I still loved Randy, but I felt I had to weigh that love against the question of if he could be trusted. I used my journals as a way to measure the good against the bad. I reviewed years of my feelings for him, seen more clearly in hindsight. There were pages that I would read that would instantly bring up the hurt of being rejected. There were pages that would remind me of how wonderful he could be.
We started our relationship again, slowly and more cautiously than before. I felt my heart was guarded in a new way–I was careful to protect it.
Randy went away for a weekend retreat a couple of months later. While he was gone, I really prayed for him, that God would make His will clear to us, that He would heal us of our selfishness, our bitterness, our long list of problems… I just wanted to do what was right. I was weary of trying to figure it all out.
I felt it was time to truly forgive with my whole heart, not holding on to the past, looking forward to what God had for us. I gathered up all of my journals–going a couple of years back, and I started going through, page by page. When I read something that brought up that hurt in my heart, I took the page and ripped it out. Page after page, journal after journal, I purged all of the bitterness out of those books. Some missed a few pages here and there, others were left nearly empty.
I called my sister-in-law, drove over to her house with the stack of papers, and we burned them on her gas grill. From that moment, I knew I could not look back. When the ashes cooled, we gathered them up and put them in a little glass jar. I sent them to Randy on his last day with a note that said, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”
We have been married for almost 10 years. Over the course of our relationship, we have heard lots of advice about marriage, sermons about relationships between husbands and wives, conversations with couples about their own struggles and strategies for making it work… The best advice we ever got was this: “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.” (Which we translated as don’t go to bed mad.) There have been so many times where it would have been easy to shut down and cry and go to bed. (And sometimes when I confess I have given in to this ease…). But at the end of 10 years, I can truly say that between us we have no unresolved conflicts. There is nothing that Randy says or does that drums up hurtful memories. They are truly in the past. This is remarkable to say–even now as I am writing this, I am realizing how amazing that is.
We do argue, and we do have heated discussions where we disagree. But we always come back to sincerely asking for and truly receiving forgiveness.
I think this is the only way a marriage can work.
I am grateful to have married a man who can truly say he is sorry. And that he is a man who will truly forgive and forget all of the stupid, selfish things I say on a regular basis. And I am thankful to have lived through painful experiences in my life to give me opportunities to continue cultivating forgiveness myself. We have both lived a life where we have experienced the forgiveness of Christ–over and over again, poured out so richly and abundantly to cover every transgression, and in return, He is teaching us to love one another more truly and more deeply. (He who has been forgiven much loves much…)
I tell you that story as a ps. to Journaling: The Story of My Life… to say this: there is a time to write, a time to figure it all out, a time to read and reread your old thoughts. But there is also a time to let it go… A time to forget and move on. A time to lay the past aside and look to the future. I do not want to live one moment of my short life in the bitter misery of dwelling on something that hurt me 5, 10, or 20 years ago. I want to live a life of instant forgiveness. I don’t want to miss out on the deepest and dearest of human relationships by keeping a record of wrongs that have been done to me. It would mean missing out on so much… I am reminded of this every time I pass by Randy’s bookshelf, where there sits a little glass jar full to the brim with ashes.