I had planned on writing this whole post on goals and how they don’t always work out and really one is better than twelve. I was going to write about how my mantra for the year is “simple”. But instead I keep thinking about Joe’s Kaitlin Box.
Joe’s Kaitlin Box is a giant (size 14) shoe box that we uncovered last weekend while trying to find a place for the things Santa brought us. The box is filled with movie stubs, tickets to plays, cards I’ve given, and notes I’ve written. The entire box is a timeline of our college years, with the first letter being exactly seven days after we started dating, and the last being a few weeks before we graduated from Wofford. And there’s a couple of thank you notes from Keely in there, because our handwriting is similar. We sat down in the middle of our cleaning/unpacking mess, because that’s always necessary when coming across a box full of letters, and as I read each one out loud, I learned or remembered a few things about myself.
1) Freshman-Kaitlin was bored during class A LOT. Like every other Western Civ and Organic lecture. So she wrote.
2) I’ve been writing how I talk since forever.
3) Encouraging other people used to be my life purpose. Specifically, my sophomore year. I used to wake up each morning and ask myself how I could make someone’s day better.
4) I never did write about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote about helping people, and I hoped that the two were one in the same.
5) I’ve thought that Joe Bailey is the cutest guy in the world for at least five years.
What I saw in those letters was less about Joe and more about myself. Not in a selfish way, because I’ve known my love for Joe for over five years now – it’s as much a part of who I am as being from South Carolina, for example. What I saw in college-Kaitlin was a version of myself firing on all cylinders. I was busy, and loud, and funny, and happy, and a good friend. And I realized that I hadn’t been that way for a while. Married life and moving to new states meant less face time with other people, more effort required in maintaining relationships, more alone time, more time for idleness. And I fell into that pretty hard in Charlottesville, and to some extent in Baltimore. My focus shifted from helping others to helping myself, from being busy to being lazy, from laughing a lot to smiling occasionally. And yes, this shift had something to do with leaving Wofford, and a lot to do with being without gainful employment for six months. But I can see now that it has everything to do with keeping God at arm’s length. I see him, and I know him, but I don’t welcome him like an old friend. There used to be a familiarity that was so natural to me, but now I feel harder, more skeptical. And maybe those aren’t even the right words, because I know who God is and I know that he is love and that through his grace I can approach his throne with confidence. I know these things, but I’ve stopped being moved by them. It used to be that the very thought of grace could move me to tears, but now it’s as removed as reading about it in a textbook.
The truth is that I’ve put up some pretty great defense mechanisms to guard my heart. As I get older, I tend to let fewer people in, and somewhere along the way, I stopped letting God in. In an effort to protect myself from hard things, I’ve encouraged the parts of me that insist I can do it alone and that needing love is a weakness. The truth is also that I’m not the same girl who wrote those letters. I’m older, I know more about chemistry and less about my heart, my hair is darker, and I like to go to bed earlier. The silver lining is that I’m not too proud to admit it. That my slightly chillier heart can still be humble and admit fault. I am not perfect. I am being made perfect and holy by a God whose grace I will never earn. I am a work in progress, a complete ragamuffin, and will always be. And sometimes it takes a rambling blog post that was supposed to be about bringing simplicity to 2014 to remind me of that.
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have the power together with all of the saints to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.