The Room – Joshua Harris

THE ROOM

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found
myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features
save for the one wall covered with small index card files.
They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author
or subject in alphabetical order.
But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and
seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different
headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to
catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked”.
I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I
quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the
names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.
This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog
system for my life. Here were written the actions of my
every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory
couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled
with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening
files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and
sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so
intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if
anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I
Have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to
the outright weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have
Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed
At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things
I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at:
“Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have
muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never
ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were
many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I
hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had
lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 16
years to write each of these thousands or even millions of
cards? But each card confirmed this truth.
Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with
my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I
Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain
their contents. The cards were packed tightly,
and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of
the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of
music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file
represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a
chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch,
not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I
shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that
such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought
dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards!
No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!”
In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t
matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I
took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I
could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and
pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I
tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot.
Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-
pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I
Have Shared the Gospel With”.

The handle was brighter than those around it, newer,
almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not
more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could
count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep
that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me.
I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from
the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves
swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever
know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No,
please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I
watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read
the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in
the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I
saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to
intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read
every one?

Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the
room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was
a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered
my face with my hands and began to cry again.

He walked over and put His arm around me. He could
have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word.
He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files.
Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and,
one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each
card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could
find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him.
His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was,
written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus
covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently
took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began
to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He
did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard
Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He
placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I
stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was
no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

Josh died a few weeks before he wrote this. When his family were clearing out his school locker they found this story he wrote for a class project…

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