Today I took a notebook that I had started using as a journal and left incomplete about three years ago. It was the latest volume in a shelf full of journals spanning my life since age 11, and they nearly all told a reformulation of the same sin-ridden story, which got more and more lurid every time it was re-spun. I started reading and I was appalled. It was a chronicle of idolatry, lust and perversion. It made me feel sick, and it was sitting on my shelf because I had given it a right to remain there. At former times in my life I would go over to those chronicles and read them because I was feeling ‘nostalgic’. I used to do it a number of times a year; I used to analyze and annotate and meditate on them. I would spend hours at a time poring over them. I would look back at those times and chuckle, as you chuckle at a picture you drew when you were five and think, ‘Aw, shucks; what a genius in the making’ – but more morbidly. At no time would I look back on those sins without cherishing either the sins themselves, or myself for committing them – in the very peculiar way that we love to cherish the ‘tragic’, ‘romantic’ stories that we spin out of human sin, especially if they’re about ourselves.
I cut the pages out of that book with my Dad’s stanley knife, put them through his shredder two or three pages at a time, and chucked the basketful of remains into the paper recycling wheelie bin. I could still read isolated lines of tiny font from the typed entries as I carried the basket out; I thought of all the hours I’d spent conceiving these little brainchildren, and my heart ached a bit. Into the waste they went, a line here, a limb there… some people grieve more over the loss of a cherished self-narrative than that of an unwanted gift of new life. May God help me discard the former in order to embrace the latter.
One day, God willing, those pages will end up as toilet paper, as the slightly yellow recycled letter-paper they use at the council, or as ‘eco-friendly’ greetings card material. And I won’t be able to trace a single shred. Jesus flushed those sins a long time ago and he’s going to help me out of this cesspipe even if I’m still caked in newer layers of sin while he does it. I hope the Lord will see me hammer more and more nails into this particular coffin and help me to shred the rest of my sin-chronicles, book by book.