When I was young, my parents converted the attic of our A-frame house into a master bedroom. When the empty-nest years came, they moved into a new home and I took over the house and the attic.

I loved that space! I especially loved the little storage alcoves created where the triangular roof and walls met the floor. For a kid, they would have made the most amazing hide-n-seek havens.

Memory Lane

When it was my turn to move out, I scoured those alcoves and discovered little treasures my parents had left behind—old Christmas ornaments, dive equipment, sporting goods, books, and hundreds of loose family photos. My mom had even stored a host of trophies and scholastic awards that I had received as a child. What memories it all stirred up!

As I was finishing up my nostalgia tour, I noticed something tucked back in the corner. There was no light in the alcove so I ran downstairs and grabbed a flashlight from the kitchen drawer. I clicked it on and it brought the whole dusty space into quick relief including the one remaining box.

I recognized it and in wonder drew it out into the full light of the attic. It was a collection of items I’d packed and then forgotten when I’d gone to college. I opened the box and the flood came like the aroma of my grandmother’s rice pudding and scent of tobacco that shadowed my grandfather.

It was my memory chest. There were four years’ worth of journals and high school yearbooks, my athletic letters from soccer and softball, a warm-up jacket with my childhood nickname stitched on it, correspondence from an old boyfriend, tickets from my first rock concert, and so much more.

Picture Worth A 1000 Thoughts

Down at the bottom, tucked in the corner and almost out of sight was a small photo album. It was one of those cutesy ones with big flowers on it that only a child could like. I opened it and felt a Harry Potter port key yank me backward from my bellybutton into times and places I’d forgotten.

I remembered Whiskey, our 140-lb Saint Bernard, slobbering all over my work uniform. I remembered my first car, a blue Ford Pinto (yikes). I remembered family vacations in our RV. And then the first night I got drunk, the night I lost my virginity, the day I flirted with my married boss to get out of work early, the time I led a smitten boy into sin—and slammed the album shut.

As I threw the album back into the box and hurriedly closed it, a scripture came to mind: “The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man; it searches out his inmost being.”

I glanced down at the flashlight still at my side. Its beam still shone into the shadowy crawlspace illuminating the emptiness. “What’s the point,” I thought angrily, “of stirring up all that stuff?”

Lamp Up My Life

And then I remember John 3:20: “Everyone who sins in the darkness hates the light because they’re afraid that their deeds will be exposed. But those who are doing right come gladly into the light to let everyone see that what they are doing is what God wants them to do.”

Memories aren’t good or bad, they just are. Memories themselves don’t determine who we are, but our choices based on the memories do.

Why do we retain those shameful memories?

Because they remind us that we could easily go back into the darkness if we don’t keep moving forward into the light.

What memory from your past motivates you to live your life exposed to the light?