Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Beginning and End (04/16/09)
TITLE: The Old Suitcase
By Charldene Ashley
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She goes to the guest room closet and takes out an old canvas suitcase. She sits on the floor and looks at it with weary apprehension. Inside are years of reminiscences, reflections, and “navel gazing nonsense”, as her husband would say. Words from a past life—one that ended on May 14, 1989.
She unzips the suitcase. A strong musty odor assails her nostrils. “It smells like a grave,” she thinks. From the jumble of diaries, she pulls out one with a red cover. The first entry reads “May 11, 1974: This is the first day of the rest of my life. I am about to embark on a grand adventure!” Claire smiles ruefully as she remembers that day. She had just graduated from college and was bursting with hopeful enthusiasm about a future filled with infinite possibilities. She had been so anxious to embrace the world and to “self actualize”. She really believed she was the master of her universe. How wrong she was.
She begins reading journals at random. They all sound the same, talking of lofty goals and brooding incessantly over disappointments. She had clawed up the corporate ladder in New York, living in a social vortex and spiritual void. Her pale cheeks redden as she reads about the wild parties, the meaningless relationships and faux friends. She remembers the acute loneliness she felt in that city of millions. In one entry, she described it as “a shadow across my soul, a grey mist of despair.” If only she’d known she was never really alone.
She reads one page that lifts her spirits. It described an “interesting guy” she met in a bank line in mid-town. The “interesting guy” was John, who would eventually become her beloved husband and soul mate. She used to think their meeting was “serendipity” and “fate”, now she thanks God for bringing them together. They had twenty-six wonderful years of marriage before losing him to a drunk driver.
Claire looks at the journals, wondering if she should toss them out. They describe a woman she hardly recognizes and isn’t sure she wants her children to know her. After all, the leather bound journals in her night stand are a truer reflection of who she is now. The first one describes the day her real life began—May 14, 1989, when she met Christ.
Claire closes her eyes, recalling the exact moment she realized there was a Savior and that she desperately need saving; and the ecstasy of knowing total forgiveness. She remembered the hunger for God’s word and the intense compelling to write. She read and wrote daily; wrote about the power of scripture, exhaustively detailing each new revelation. The world was different, offering more beauty and blessings. She was different. At first John was alarmed, but her faith was contagious and he eventually followed her into the baptism tank. She put her old journals in the canvas suitcase and hid them upstairs. She was no longer on a fruitless quest for self-discovery; she was on a quest to know God.
That night, as Claire lies in bed, she prays. A few minutes later, she nods and whispers, “Thanks, Lord, that's what I'll do.” Claire’s children have only known her as a Christian; a joyful optimist and a tower of strength. They love her deeply and her death will test their faith. How strong is it? Do they understand that death is just the end of the beginning? She will leave them her precious leather bound diaries, chronicling her spiritual journey; but she has also decided to bequeath them her suitcase full of moral confusion, loneliness and despair. What better inheritance than a powerful illustration of how God can change a life?
Smiling, she opens a leather bound journal and writes: “This is the first day of the rest of my life. I am about to embark on a grand adventure!”
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