The Red Book

The red book sitting on the desk stared at me inquisitively, asking the question: Why don’t you want to open me?

I’m a part of the Thrive Marriage Lab, a membership community that Restoration Counseling offers. A couple of weeks ago, in the large group time, Tracy Johnson shared these words, “The door to our hearts we’ve closed to keep pain away is the same door that keeps love at a distance.”  

Red book, that’s why I don’t want to open you.

Nine months ago I decided to take God’s invitation of space from pastoring. One group that I knew I would need to tell in person were the collegiate athletes that I facilitated a weekly Bible Study for. I tearfully told them and invited them over to my house for the last of our annual backyard cookouts. As the cookout began to wind down, Taylor, a volleyball player and leader in the group, gave me this red book filled with notes of gratitude and encouragement from athletes whose lives I had impacted.  

It took me 2 months to open it. When I would think about reading their notes, my chest would get tight, some variation of “Nope; not going there” would race through my mind, and I would leave the room.  

I often wondered: What in the world is going on with me that I don’t want to read a book filled with gratitude and encouragement? 

At Restoration Project, I have heard it described that each of us has two stories. The first story is the one that God authors, and it tells a story of our glory, of who God designed us to be and what He created us to do.  

The second story is the one that Evil writes overtop of the first. For me, this second story has left my mind swirling with accusation, loss, regret, and contempt. One of the ways I learned to protect myself from the daily impact of this story is to shut the door on the pain and the swirling thoughts.  

But, like Tracy pointed out, a byproduct of disengaging from my pain and the accusations was that I disengaged from love and my glory.  

Last week I finally allowed myself to open the book. I found myself in a wrestling match, arguing with the words that they had generously written, discounting them as youthful exaggeration or just being plain wrong. Eventually, I was able to silence the debate and allow their words to be true.  

“Thank you for showing me what it looks like to be a godly leader. Thank you for never being afraid to step into my life and simply listen. Thank you for seeing qualities in me that I couldn’t see in myself.”

These words are echoes of the first story and I can only hear them if I open the door to the pain and accusations of the second, exposing their lies to the light, so that love and glory can come to rest within my mind and soul.

Is there a door that you need to open to the pain of your second story so that you can receive the love of the first?

-Kevin Armstrong

Director of Legacy Partnerships