Sitting on the corner of my desk is a mason jar. Just a plain ol’ pint jar filled with sticky notes and tattered pages torn from a notebook. It is the place that holds my deepest fears and my greatest hopes.
It is the place where I put things that I cannot hold onto any longer, because they were never mine to hold onto in the first place. Despite my belief that I can work harder, do more, and control all the things I can’t. When I finally get to the point where I know that something is not mine to do I write it on a piece of paper and stick it in the jar.
I date each paper that goes into the jar. The dates are important to me. I would never in a million years remember all the things that were once giant burdens on my heart and mind, because that is the magic of the jar.
Once the things go in the jar they are no longer mine to hold. I am physically taking them off my proverbial plate. If I want to keep obsessing over, manipulating, or managing these things I can take the paper out of the jar and place it my pocket, carry it around physically like the burden it is.
Every so often, I open the jar and remove all the papers. I read each item carefully and usually tearfully as I realize that each paper holds a prayer that has been answered or a prayer that is, “not yet.” If they are answered I shoot a quick “thank you” skyward and remove the paper from the jar. If the paper reveals something that is a “not yet” I add the date of the current reading and place the paper back in the jar, hoping that one day that paper will be permanently removed from the jar.
When I first learned of this practice, I was sitting in a room filled with friends also in recovery. Truthfully, this writing down of hurts and hopes and physically putting them somewhere sounded ridiculous to me. I still believed that I had the power to do all the things.
The more I heard people in meetings share this practice, the more I took notice. Perhaps I kept hearing this message, because this message was meant for me.
So one day I began. I cut colorful strips of paper and wrote down the things on my heart and I stuffed them in the mason jar. I was a little upset because this concept had always been presented to me as a “God box.” But all I had was a jar.
Then, one day, God, in His infinite kindness, spoke through a fellowship friend.
“I don’t call it a God box. I call it a God can. Because when I can’t…God can.
My jar looks more like a can than a box any day of the week. The jar’s intended purpose is to be used for “canning.” It was created for storing all the things that we want to hold onto for later, for holding all the things we can’t physically keep right this minute.
I am forever grateful to my friend who taught me this new definition. Every time I add a scrap of paper to my jar, I get to remember, that when I can’t, God can.
Today, I added a new strip of paper. Its message is similar to a few other papers in the jar. I have had the same burden on my heart for many years, and just this week more was revealed.
Here’s what I know about that slip of paper. It is not mine to hold. No way on this side of heaven could I ever shoulder the weight of the burden of making it right. So I wrote it down and put it in my jar. And it will sit there until it is made right. Because God can.