Finding Old Diaries – An Emotional Journey

Travel restrictions are being eased this week in Ireland and we will now be able to travel (if not out of the country) at least countrywide. Since the beginning of the year travel restrictions have been so confining and the weather has been so bad that I’ve been using the time to organise and “clear out;” going through an accumulation of ancient photographs, letters – and diaries. I sometimes wonder why on earth I’ve kept these old records of my life from back then, before I was a Christian. I have been keeping diaries on and off since I was a child and I suppose from a social history point of view, they will some day make interesting reading but I seriously have to consider whether I would want anyone to read about a part of me that I’d prefer to forget about. In fact, there are certain old diaries which I think should be shredded or thrown on a bonfire to be honest…

I sigh and shake my head in irritation as I read the writings of this person in her early twenties. Was that young stranger really me? I came to know the Lord at 25 and after that the diaries changed considerably but I have only the Lord to thank for that changed life. I suppose some would laugh and say… “you weren’t that bad,” but I don’t like the person I was back then. Another aspect of all this, is the fact that it makes me feel depressed now to read about how things were all those years ago when I was a child; my over-sensitive reactions to everything and my constant anxiety. In even older diaries it is evident that I worried about school, I worried about bullies and I worried about a troubled Northern Ireland in those days when no one knew where the next shooting would happen or the next bomb would go off.

One diary brought back old memories of the death of my school friend in a car accident. I remember borrowing a book from her one Friday and on Monday morning I hoped to return it to her but on arrival at school, book in hand, there were hushed voices in the corridor. Frances, her sister and her cousin had all died along with three young men in that accident. I had heard nothing about it. Memories of our class attending the funeral came flooding back – and seeing her like that. I didn’t know they were queuing up to see Frances or I wouldn’t have done so and that awful memory has stayed with me all these years. I had only said “see you later” that Friday and then she was no more. There were important exams shortly after that and I know that I didn’t do so well because I was grief stricken. No one had heard of “counselling” in those days.

Maybe I should get rid of the “clutter” that irritates me these days; the memories are too painful when I read certain things. I read an article recently which said that old diaries have become a collector’s item for some people who make vast collections and earn a lot from trading old diaries online. With regard to my own diaries, would anyone even want to read all this stuff about a total stranger’s very personal dramas and from a Christian point of view – would it be “good to the use of edifying, that it may administer grace unto the hearers?” (Ephesians 4v29)

Well, that is a decision which only I can make – with the Lord’s guidance and direction. However, there comes a time when the reading of old personal experiences can have a negative impact on us, to the extent where we are reliving those experiences and maybe we should just let go of these old writings. However, this is a very personal matter which we must decide for ourselves and as in all other matters… in the Lord’s will.

One thing I know is that the past with all its life experiences can be learned from and make us more empathetic towards the situations that others find themselves in today. In a sense I’m glad that certain interesting old letters were safely kept all those years ago. One was to my great grandmother (my mother’s grandmother) from a friend who was offering condolences on the death of her husband. Dated 3rd January, 1921, I see it as a sentimental heirloom to pass down to subsequent generations.

As regards the old diaries, they have made me tearful in a happy way too. I thank the Lord that He did save me by His grace all those years ago and that my life immediately changed direction, never to return to those old days when spiritual matters meant nothing to me. When I contemplate my empty life as it once was, with no Comforter to turn to in troubled moments, I am so thankful to the Lord for all that He has done for me and for His redeeming love. “Grace” indeed is “undeserved mercy.” How I would love everyone I know to experience this for themselves!  Tossing my old diaries to one side, praise God the words of an even older hymn come back to me…

Years I spent in vanity and pride,

Caring not my Lord was crucified,

Knowing not it was for me He died

On Calvary.


Mercy there was great, and grace was free;

Pardon there was multiplied to me;

There my burdened soul found liberty

At Calvary.

By God’s Word at last my sin I learned;

Then I trembled at the law I’d spurned,

Till my guilty soul imploring turned

To Calvary.

Now I’ve giv’n to Jesus everything,

Now I gladly own Him as my King,

Now my raptured soul can only sing

Of Calvary!

Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan!

Oh, the grace that brought it down to man!

Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span

At Calvary!

William R. Newell (1868-1956)

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4 Responses to “Finding Old Diaries – An Emotional Journey”

  1. Cathy Says:

    Elizabeth, you say… “Was that young stranger really me?” I often think the very same thing about myself. I remember this “stranger” and like you I think “was that really me!” When the Lord saves us we truly are a new creation, and I will be forever grateful because I don’t like that sinful stranger of the past to all. Praise God that we have both known the truth of these words…

    2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

  2. Linda Lee/Lady Quixote Says:

    I enjoyed reading this. How wonderful to find your old diaries and see the great change that happened when you became a Christian!

    • readywriterpublications Says:

      Thanks Linda… my life’s direction changed completely. It’s good to be “Homeward bound.” By the way have been thinking and praying for you and your loved ones, as you’ve had a rough time recently.

  3. readywriterpublications Says:

    Cathy, how true! I dread to think what direction my life would have taken if the Lord had not saved me… And “the new creature” is a necessity for every new Christian.

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