When Memories are Our God

I spent a good chunk of my early twenties regretting two days: an afternoon at a sushi restaurant and a night I spent alone watching Batman at the movie theater inside of the mall.

I didn’t realize¬†it,¬†but all those years I¬†spent driving around my hometown arguing with God, I was trying to figure out a way to convince Him¬†to turn back time. I knew if He would just let me do them over I could fix everything.

It wasn’t until last week¬†with my forearms resting on¬†a picnic table, young eyes and beautiful faces staring at me that I finally admitted¬†the truth.

That day in the sushi restaurant and that night in the movie theater could no longer be my¬†God. They could not be the thing I lived for–the thing that I leaned on to save my life any longer.

Later in the week I cried on the baking aisle at Kroger because I realized that until we decide to let go of those moments that we’re convinced¬†changed everything, we will spend our entire lives making idols out of a day on a calendar that cannot offer you anything for your future.

Constantly looking at the past, at a moment, a hurt, a grief, a thing we cannot forgive–in ourselves or someone else– eventually makes it our God. When we obsessively expect or want something from it, analyze it in hopes for some kind of redemption or some kind of answer,¬†we begin to worship it. When we obsessively believe that it will fix everything, if we get an answer or get “closure” from that moment, we make it our God.

Those two moments are ones I couldn’t forgive myself for. They are also moments I could not forgive someone else for. Within them were layered years of trust issues and excuses for why freedom was out of my reach. But anything that keeps you from freedom is your God.¬†Anything that you are so locked into, given over to¬†so fully, anything that has permission to take control of you without your ability to have yourself¬†back–that thing is your God.¬†

For me they were my trust issues, that came with seeing that birthday bag hidden at the end of that table, and the words said to me when I was wearing that blue jacket. They became my God because I was so trapped in how they broke my heart. I gave them my mind, my heart, my trust. If they had gone differently, oh how my life would have turned out to be something else to behold.

When memories are our God, we give them our hearts, our best years of forgiveness and trust. Back when I was young and dumb, back before I knew that people were so cruel. 

We think our wisdom and better understanding of the world is what took¬†our¬†ability to just hand out trust and forgiveness, but really it was our idolatry of our memories. If we were honest, we’ve spent our years fixated, worshipping days of our lives, thinking that if we could get them back they would heal the deepest parts of our souls.

We have given credit where it is not due and thought if this day had not happened, I would be better than I am right now.

We exalt hours, minutes, or seconds; we worship the hands of the clock. We think it was moments that broke us, time that heals us, and will be at-first-sight seconds that save us.

But time is just a measure, a tool, a thing. If we¬†could finally invent the time machine we’ve all been praying for,¬†I’m convinced that none of us would be happier, healthier, better off. Because it would not change our hearts; we could change a moment, but we could not change what got us¬†there.

Because everything that built up to that moment would not have changed. It’s cause and effect, my dear. That moment was built on a thousand other little things that made it what it was. The second you realize that is the second you might finally learn to forgive. Because the human heart is far more complicated that just one passing moment.¬†We must stop holding it¬†inside a prison of one split second, one long day, one complicated year.

Time and your memories are too small to be your God; they are too far gone to fix you, too fleeting to save you.

But if they¬†hold your trust, have stolen¬†your forgiveness,¬†trapped your joy–you’ve made them your God.

If you’ve used words that sound something like: “But you don’t know what happened to me”, that moment, that sixty seconds, that day, that stretch of the earth spinning of the earth around the sun– that became your God.

It became the thing that you gave permission to break and name you. And if you’re honest it’s the thing you believe, if you could get it back, would be able to save you.

There’s a baking aisle in Kroger and it’s where I decided that the calendar wasn’t the thing I wanted to wake up next to every morning. I didn’t want to grow old with and give everything to a day or a year I had circled in red.

It’s where God¬†became God again and time and its memories became a thing I finally stopped trying to change.

 

 

Time and Space

We were talking about small victories, about the little choices we make along the path of finally moving on.

She and I both have our stories. We have our chapters where we had everything we thought we wanted, and turned the page to find out that those were the things we could not keep.

My fingers pressed the buttons and typed a sentence that I didn’t even know was true until after it had been said:

“I tried to make time and space my healer.”

I became the person who thought miles and state lines would be the medicine I was desperately seeking.

Sometimes I’m both the fight and¬†flight type of person. When it comes to others, count on me to fight. But when it comes to my own pain, you’ll usually see me¬†headed toward I-85.¬†So, I learned the art of leaning into time and space. I put them¬†on a pedestal¬†and¬†just knew that they¬†would solve all my problems.

So, imagine my surprise when I found myself crying over a bowl of salad and asking one of my best friends if we’d ever stop having this conversation. I begged her to tell me that one day¬†I would¬†wake up to find that the clock’s hands had finally¬†been able to repair all the holes in my heart.

She didn’t promise me that because¬†she knew better. Time and space had not repaired any more of me¬†than the last time we sat across from one another, back when Christmas lights lit up our hometown.

Time and space can sometimes be the tools in His hands, but they are not the one who can fix your brokenness. And the second you think they will, God will set them down and tell you that¬†He’s not going to let you¬†depend on them, you¬†must learn to only depend on Him.

We keep thinking that age and¬†life experience are the things that will save us. They’ll fix the pain and they will make us stronger, healthier, more reliable, less insecure. Eventually,¬†we’re just going to grow up and get it together.

But we’re fooling ourselves when we tell¬†ourselves that God is intimidated by our allegiance to time. We often think that if time doesn’t heal us, He’ll eventually just break down the door and say¬†it has been long enough, I’m just going to fix you and get this over with.

We forget His patience. We forget His willingness to let us work it out and wait it out. God is not threatened or moved by our¬†idolatry of waiting and¬†growing up. He knows that eventually we’ll figure out that time and all its experiences don’t fix a broken heart.

He knows we will eventually have waited beyond what we can bear and will throw ourselves at Him once we finally remember that¬†He’s the only healer there is.

Until then, we bury our heads in our work, our social lives, our gym memberships and keep telling ourselves that eventually we will feel better, be better. After some time we will have moved on and the pain will have lessened.

But the reality is, that the pain doesn’t lessen, we just get used to feeling it and it¬†becomes our new normal. And in this new normal, we’re able to call ourselves¬†better and healed not realizing that we forgot what it was like to live without it.

I’m sometimes glad God keeps me in front of my pain and heartbreak. That He rips down the¬†altars that I build in front of time and space. He lets me cry into bowls of salad, and all the way down I-85. Because¬†time doesn’t heal wounds,¬†and when¬†I think it does, I’ve¬†made it my god.

And so, no…¬†we’re not going to wake up one day and suddenly no longer feel the heartbreak.¬†We are¬†not going to just grow out of this stage of pain. We will either lean into Him as healer, or wear ourselves¬†out counting on¬†clocks that hold no power.