My friends and I didn’t pass notes during middle school.
Instead, we passed entire notebooks. Sharing a notebook with a friend – and passing it back and forth all day long – was all the rage.
It makes sense, really. First of all, it demanded exclusivity, the currency of junior high drama. But the benefits didn’t end there. We could write longer letters, we could refer back to previous notes if needed
to win an argument, and handing a notebook to a classmate was much less conspicuous than handing off a piece of notebook paper folded into a heart.
What doesn’t make sense is keeping more than a dozen of these notebooks well past graduation. From college.
Besides being weird and immature, holding onto those notebooks wasn’t good for my heart. While some of them were inconsequential and painless to revisit, others contained words that hurt then – and hurt now.
It’s been many years since I ruthlessly cleaned out my cedar chest full of schoolgirl memories. I tossed those spiral-bound books in the trash with abandon (and, okay, just a twinge of sentimental regret). It hasn’t been quite as many years since I threw away another shoebox full of cards and notes from my adolescent days, but it was still quite a while ago.
And yet, some of the words linger. Some of the relationships were never mended, and those childish wounds never healed.
As much as I’d like to say those awkward teen years are the only ones that created a mental scrapbook and internal soundtrack of pain, it wouldn’t be true. Even though I know it’s no good for me, I seem to hold onto the words that hurt the most. I periodically purge my boxes of keepsakes for those things that only remind me of sadness, but I hold tightly to their memory and replay them.
“You have a big nose and a shiny forehead.”
“We’re not going to be your friend anymore.”
“You’ll never make it in college. You won’t have any friends.”
“I didn’t tell you because I knew you’d judge me.”
“Well, I’m sorry, but they said they hate you.”
“Are you sure the problem isn’t you?”
If I let it, that is the soundtrack that plays in my head. That is the stack of memories I keep in my heart’s shoebox. Those are the words I hold onto tightly.
But only when I forget the truth.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
While my treacherous brain retains a handful of insults, criticisms and careless, stinging words, I also have a file of encouraging conversations, compliments and other words of love. And that file? It’s overflowing.
That file is full of love notes from my mom (who still calls me “beautiful baby girl”), sweet words from true friends (like the Facebook message that says, “You’re an amazing friend!”), and memories of so many other encouragements (one of my favorites being the grad school professor who said – twice! – I was “a ray of sunshine”).
These words are the ones I want to keep, in my box of memories and my heart. I think I’ll put the others through the shredder.
What memories do you focus on? Which words do you hold in your heart?
By: Mary, Giving up on Perfect