rebelling against low expectations

The Room by Joshua Harris


May the beauty of salvation embrace you, may your need for Christ capture you, and may the power of the Cross overwhelm you. For information on the authorship of “The Room” please click here. To download PDF, click here.

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.

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 20 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.

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

“No one must ever see these cards!
No one must ever see this room!”

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 they 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.

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.

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.

By Joshua Harris. Copyright New Attitude, 1995. You have permission to reprint this in any form. We only ask that you include the appropriate copyright byline and do not alter the content. To download PDF, click here.

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About the author

Brett Harris

is co-founder of and co-author of Do Hard Things, along with his twin brother, Alex. He is married to his best friend, Ana, who blogs at He is the founder of the Young Writers Workshop — an ongoing coaching program for serious writers.


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  • I love that! I have read it before, but it makes me wonder if I am really spending my time wisely… I think everybody should read it!

  • Wow…oh, my gosh! This is incredible, heart warming, eye opening, and touching. It has blessed me with truth, revealed to me the depth of God’s love for me and all others. Thank you to all the Harris brothers for sharing this; I will remember it always.

  • This is beautiful, eye-opening, and inspirational. Thank you so much. This has changed my outlook and perspective on how I spend my time, and it has changed my life. Thank you, thank you so much.

  • Really inspirational! It sent shivers up my spine. It’s so amazing how Jesus forgives all that we have done. Thank you!

  • Wow! Thank you so much. It puts so much in perspective. I want to be “that girl who led so many people to Christ”. I feel so awed that Jesus would do that for me. I want to live my life as blamelessly as my imperfect self can. Again, thanks so much.

  • “The Room” is such a great story, it makes you think alot! I wonder what would be written on my cards, Ouch! you guys are so great!

  • I feel that the concept behind this story is good (the forgiveness of Jesus) However, the way in which it is presented can be dangerous.

    A lot of these cards are good things. Why would jokes that I laughed at be something that Jesus would sign his name on? Or songs that I have listened to? These things should not be something that you should feel guilty about. This room contains your identity. Who you are. And even if the cards are bad things, instead of trying to hide it, why don’t you share it with others? Being authentic one of the most important things we can do.

    Unfortunately, the American Christian Culture would rather have us hide our rooms and make it appear that everything is awesome and great, instead of being honest and vulnerable and letting other see us as we are. If this does not change, we are in danger of becoming like Don Draper of Mad Men, never allowing anybody to truly see us.

    So as Christians, how do we create space for people to be vulnerable. Are we willing to listen to their doubts, and fears even if that makes us uncomfortable? And more importantly, are we willing to be vulnerable first?

    (And if you go back through your filling cabinets I’ll bet you will find a lot of good memories. And some of the jokes that you laughed at might turn out to still be pretty dang funny…)

  • Powerful… So amazing to think that every single thing about you, great or small, God knows. And even more amazing is that he died for every one of those sinful things in those filing cabinets, so we don’t have to take the punishment. It makes me feel so guilty, but we shouldn’t feel guilty. We should regret those things, but by God’s grace we are forgiven. Someone recently challenged me to think before I sin, that Jesus has had to pay for it if I do it. Every sin that we commit made the Jesus suffer more. I challenge you guys to think about that too. We also really need to be witnesses for him. I have never thought about it this way until right now, that by witnessing, not only are we winning souls for Christ, we are also lessening the pain and agony that God willingly took for us.

  • WOW!!! That is so powerful! It makes you stop and think about your life: what you spend your time doing, what you say, and how you act. It also gives you a renewed heartfelt thankfulness and awe of Jesus and what He did and does for us every day of our lives. Thank you for posting this!

  • …….That’s pretty amazing! It really spoke to me in an odd way as i am going though really bad general problems with my best friend.

  • This is really powerful, I shared it on Facebook and I hardly ever get on Facebook. I am an amateur writer and I have learned to appreciate writing, this is truly amazing.

  • I love this post! I read it several months ago, but it’s just as special to me now as it was then. The first time I read it I was almost in tears. It really helps you understand what Jesus did on the cross. It makes me want to thank God for being who He is. Thanks!

  • I just forwarded this to all my friends. My sister loves it and she sent it to all her friends too!
    keep doing what God calls you to do!

  • Wow! That was powerful. I had tears in my eyes as I read it. Thank you soo much for posting this. I showed it to my brother and he liked it also.
    I will forward it to my friends.

    Thank you so much!


  • To Joshua, i just want you to know how much this has changed my life. Why do we as christians not realize that God truly sees everything we do. Thankfully, God doesn’t have cabinets like this because the bible says that when we ask for forgiveness he forgives and forgets. I feel very thankful that you wrote this and i just wanted you to know that it is life changing. I will include you in my prayers so that you may keep posting eye-openong articles like this.

  • This story is so inspirational and encouraging, yet eye-opening. God is faithful to the unfaithful. Our lives will never be perfect but Christ still loves us unconditionally. Our God is so good is he not? We are so blessed to be serving such a wonderful God. Thanks for posting!


By Brett Harris
rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →