For many late adolescents and young adults, I would guess that some of the most hellish and haunting pages you can turn through are those from your school yearbooks. Looking into those thick devils reminds us of everything that was, many things that could or should have been, and begging questions of “what if.”
If you are one of the few who chose not to purchase your school yearbooks, or could not afford them, you are blessed. But buying them sure was the thing to do, wasn’t it? Every year, book buying and signing was a big event.
It was almost like the the torturous culture of high school was saying “here, pay us $75 to carry around your past like a ball-and-chain.” I am glad I had the experience, I guess, but I wish I would have been more wise.
Forget and Move On?
I just placed my old yearbooks on the highest bookshelf in my house. It’s near the ceiling, so I actually need a step ladder to reach them. This place is reserved for the books I will reference the least. It’s not that I hate my yearbooks; I actually don’t mind looking through them. It’s just that for the most part I don’t really care about my past, even though there are some things I wish I could change about it.
When I think of who I was ten (or even five) years ago, I cringe in disgust. I hate thinking of that person. I hate looking at him. I suppose you could call this self loathing, but I don’t even really consider that person to be me anymore. In fact, he was so un-me, I wonder where I was and what I was doing. What in the world was I doing?
I think this is something that all Christians who were not raised in the church experience when thinking of who they were before knowing Jesus Christ.
It’s difficult to accept who I was then. In many ways, my old self was like the girlfriend I never should have dated: I can never go back and undo the things we did. I can never deny the fact that I dated her. I probably can’t even forget her. Maybe I even learned some things from the treachery. But I could (and I did) break up.
Finally meeting Jesus is what helped me find who I was and why I should stop living the way I was. I still have my yearbook. I still carry around many of my old habits and in many ways I still fall in the ways I did before. But now I have a deep and burning conviction that allows me to recognize my failures and move to something greater. This is called repentance.
Moving on and looking to God doesn’t necessarily make me a better person than I was before. The portrait of me in that class of 2010 is still me. When I learn to live with Christ, I do not magically turn into a good person. As long as I live in this life I will always have that destructive force within me. However, I am made to be “righteous.” This means that I am in a right relationship with God and I allow his goodness to fill my character, thus meaning that any goodness I have within me is borrowed. This is called reconciliation.
Inevitably I will fall time and time again, and there will be times when God feels cold and distant. I’ll want to rip those pages from my yearbook. I will be angry and refuse to reside in Him. Since Jesus is a perfect gentleman, He will back off and give me my space. But since I have given my life to him and we are betrothed, He will never abandon me. When I refuse to keep my covenant with God, the covenant will keep me, and I will inevitably come back into His loving hands. This is called salvation.
Maybe breaking up with my past and my past self is more difficult to do than breaking up with a girlfriend. But much like that relationship, it had to be done in order to move on. I did love the lustful thrills I got, but I also was too miserable with the consequences and had to end the perpetual nightmare. And although my past keeps trying to call back and have “one more” night together, I keep having to ignore that call.