Wednesday, September 26

Lost & Found

I got this email back in the days when aim was the preferred method of communication and my daily endeavors consisted of finishing algebra homework, updating my buddy profile, and staying away from my home. I read the Bible because I wanted to be the best person I could be. It was more of a perfectionist, competition, though rather than an effort to help others. In retrospect, it had absolutely nothing to do with God, and everything to do with me.

I'm not sure if anyone else noticed. I was systematically changing myself into a "christian"--you know, one of those "perfect" people who never had anything bad happen. Who never felt hurt or betrayal or loss or pain. I devoured the New Testament looking for quick fixes to turn me into that model of spiritual and emotional perfection.

I also pushed everything in my life that hurt into some dark closet that I only unlocked when I was feeling particularly nostalgic. Being a christian meant always being happy. It meant always being at peace and always being "on", ready to help and love others at a moment's notice.

But love doesn't pour out of something that's empty.

I had an extreme void inside me. I didn't feel loved. I didn't feel worth it. I tried my very best to do well at school, to be a good friend, to be that picture-perfect daughter--anything that would earn me something. I guess anything that would earn me love. Because I believed with all my heart that it was something you earned.

The problem is that while I was trying so hard to earn love, I was running completely dry inside. I felt bitter trying to put on a mask of perfection, I felt lonely knowing that no one knew my pain. I picked on my sister, pointing out her flaws to make myself feel better, and I tried ardently to block out my brother from my heart believing I couldn't be happy when I loved someone who I knew was dying.

And in the midst of this madness, a miracle happened.

I got this email, "The Room." Maybe it isn't that big of a deal, but it rocked my world and shook me to the core:

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read "Girls I Have Liked." I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named "Friends" was next to one marked "Friends I Have Betrayed."

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. "Books I Have Read," "Lies I Have Told," "Comfort I Have Given," "Jokes I Have Laughed At." Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: "Things I've Yelled at My Brothers." Others I couldn't laugh at: "Things I Have Done in My Anger," "Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents." I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked "Songs I Have Listened To," I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked "Lustful Thoughts," I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: "No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!" In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore "People I Have Shared the Gospel With." The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

"No!" I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was "No, no," as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, "It is finished."

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

And as I sat there, in my bedroom at my computer, I was stunned. I just kept thinking, "I don't deserve this. It can't be this easy." But still the feeling of unconditional loved washed over me in giant waves. I felt like I was drowning.

Then the doorbell rang.

I slapped an ingenue smile on my face and wandered downstairs trying to forget everything I read.

Where I was promptly greeted by a smiling older women at our front door asking for me. "Ya, I'm Megan Henry," I answered warily. She suddenly handed me an apple pie, "With love, from the church." Then she left like some mysterious fairy godmother.

The church. The church I had originally been dragged to by the Cochranes. Nobody there knew me. Nobody there loved me... right?

With all honesty, I'm not entirely sure what I did with that pie, because I all remember is returning to my room with my most recent email shining brightly on the screen, and the kind and loving words from an utter stranger. I broke down and sobbed.

And I think, perhaps right then my life really began. Once upon a pie. 

No comments:

Post a Comment