Calved from the great glacier that inches its way each year across Greenland towards the Atlantic Ocean, an iceberg crashes into the ocean and floats freely with the currents. It carries with it some 5,000 years of accumulated debris, rocks and other things that are slowly released into the ocean as it melts away. Depending on where the N. Atlantic currents take it, towards or away from the warmer currents, an iceberg can last more than a year. Only one seventh of the iceberg is visible above the surface of the water; six-sevenths submerged.
Our minds are like icebergs: a small portion of our minds are conscious, the larger part unconscious. We may be aware that something is stirring in us that has not been brought to consciousness, but generally I believe, we remain unaware of what is stored there. Suddenly, after glacial movement for years, what has been unconscious can be brought to consciousness.
I’ve had just such an experience this week as I’ve begun to prepare a spiritual autobiography of my life to present to a small group at our church. Each participant is doing the same. The spiritual autobiography traces the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives.
I began my research two nights ago at bedtime. I thought I would begin to read the calendars I have saved since 1983, maybe a year or two each night. As I began to read, I was puzzled by some of the names I read—who were Dr. Rudee and Dr. Ridgely? Someone in the family had many appointments with each of them and I could not recall at all whose they were or what kind of doctor they were. Then there was a weekly appointment of mine for at least a year with Susan Kansky? Who in the world was she? Or later Debbie? Why was I seeing so much of her? The entries in my daily calendar are often more tantalizing than helpful.
Underneath all these questions there was a great stirring of unnamed emotions that kept me reading well into the night. This period, from 1983 to the present, has had many challenges as my husband and I raised our children, then 10, 6 and 6, through elementary, middle school and high school. Then they were off to college.
I have been surprised by the depth of emotion being stirred up and how much I can’t remember. I am losing sleep as I delve into more and more years. I had thought it would be a pretty easy task to pull together my life through the lens of the action of the Holy Spirit, but I have to first get through these emotions that were frozen in time in my unconscious. The last two nights I have been lifting up all this stuff to Christ who can heal the debris from all these years within me.
Of course I am also remembering the good times, too: the joy of being a mother and wife and much, much more.
I’ll be checking out my memories with my kids and a dear old friend who will remember better than I do. After all memories are selective, not comprehensive. I’ve finished the calendars from 1983 through the mid-1990’s. My daughter has just finished college, my two sons just enrolling. Still to come is her wedding in 1998 and Hank’s illness and death in 2001. Then there are the years since then of living on my own, including one son’s wedding in 2006, and my move to Charlotte from California in 2008.
In the end after presenting my spiritual autobiography, I’ll be lighter for doing it. Bringing all this “debris” to the light of consciousness is helping me move just a bit more freely than two days ago. As I delve into these memories, I’ll continue to turn the leftovers over to Jesus Christ. I shall be lighter still.
The perilous part of the iceberg is that no one can see how dangerous it is under the surface, as many ships like the Titanic have discovered. So it is with us—there are pitfalls and unseen emotions which can trip us up any time the memories are triggered. Letting go of the “debris” which I have held onto unknowingly all these years will clear out more of what stands between me and the Lord. Bringing them to consciousness and letting them go means that I travel lighter, more transparently and without more of the “gods,” the things and people to which I am attached, that stand between me and the Holy One. Amen.