Today I have the privilege of introducing Shelby Sexton as a guest post here at Faith Steps. I am so excited for you to hear the wellspring that has been springing up in her heart this week. Enjoy!!
What is your earliest childhood memory? For some it may be something wholly insignificant like a small conversation or action, for some it’s an important memory of a loved one, while for others it can be a traumatizing moment early in their life. I can honestly tell you my earliest childhood memory is non-existent. I seem to remember things in the wrong order the farther back I go, until I hit a patch in time where it’s like a moth eaten tapestry. I see a swirl here, or a bright color there, but with so much eaten away I can’t see the larger picture.
It didn’t use to bother me. Those days were pretty much uneventful anyway. Or so I thought. In an odd conversation with my mother, I discovered that not only was it a tumultuous period in our lives, but that I was clearly present for almost all of it. Those early days from age six to eight were the days when my father fell back into alcoholism, and our family splintered.
In contrast, my sister (step-sister if we’re being technical) has her own disturbing memories well preserved in her mind. She’s recounted several events to me in a matter-of-fact tone, all which make me shuffle uncomfortably. Unlike my mind however, hers removed all the emotions tied to these events. To her, it’s like watching a movie, or seeing it from the outside looking in. I can’t imagine it.
In all this confusion over something so simple, it’s like there’s a piece of myself that’s missing. Why can’t I remember those horrible moments? Why do only fragments stick out? Why is it that the most vivid moment in that time is my mother explaining divorce to a young seven year old girl, with my brother’s reactions to the announcement? Some would ask me why I’d even want to remember. Part of me doesn’t. I don’t want to imagine my father in a drunken state. I don’t want to think of the laid back man I love yelling at my mother and brothers telling us to get out. Even though it concerns my mother, I know it doesn’t hurt my current actions or understanding of what happened. I just want to know why I don’t remember.
This was my struggle for some time. Whenever someone brought up childhood memories in our college psychology classes, I had nothing to really contribute. It’s a natural part of human nature to cling to experiences. My own sister who can recall her past has used it to aid others. My inability to recall won’t let me do that. I’ve asked God about this more than once. He’s not given me much in the way of answers—until recently.
In reading through Proverbs 4, I came across that much loved verse, 23:
‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’.—NIV Translation
I’ve heard this in other translations said as the heart is ‘the wellspring of life’. What does this say about God? This is from Solomon to his son, but it’s also from God to us, his children. God warns us to guard our hearts because what we do comes from that, an outpouring of our lives. That’s not hard to see. When someone hurts you, you shy away. It’s natural. You don’t want to feel the pain again, so you avoid it. We even call a change in actions a ‘change of heart’. What does that say about God’s heart? God’s actions alone are incredible, from creating Adam and Eve despite knowing all the heartache he would endure—all the way down to laying his son’s life down for us.
This leads me back to my missing memories. I’m a sap. Unlike my sister who can disentangle herself from what happened to her, I doubt I could. I couldn’t look at my dad the same way if I remembered. I’d likely hate him. And although he makes me angry and has hurt me in the past, I do love him. I pity him, but I love him. And in that, I can find a certain amount of contentment. I don’t have to remember. I don’t need those memories. If God has kept them from me, then it’s for a reason, and that reason is to guard my heart. If I had had the first hand knowledge of what happened then today, I know much of the good memories I cherish would break like glass, and with them, a vast window would shatter. I would agonize over how I contributed, even though I was a young child, and not at fault. A rough past shouldn’t negate the joys in the present God’s given me.
More importantly, it reminds me of how important guarding the heart is. I’m not always careful with mine, and the misplacement leads to trouble. It’s from where my actions flow, the fountain of my life. And if I let the past cloud the waters, I won’t have much of a fountain. I would be a cracked fountain spewing bitter, poisoned water to the world. God guarded me from that. He guarded my sister in another way, allowing her to offer cool comfort to those who know similar experiences.
Your fountain, your wellspring, your life—guard it. The wisest man in history told his son that. God tells his children that. Because everything you do flows from it.