When the Future Changes

There were two men in my life. They both wanted to officiate my wedding. They both decided – separately – that if they never met the man I married, I wasn’t allowed to get married. Or, as one of them clarified, if I did get married without them, they’d act like the marriage was a figment of my imagination until they could reinact the ceremony with their involvement. (I didn’t dare act like they weren’t serious.) 

Both Terry and Ray jokingly-but-not-so-jokingly fought each other as they planned for my future wedding together as far as who would get most of the limelight as the officiator of my wedding, who got to kiss my cheek first and who got to harass my groom the best. 

I could never decide if their surrogate- fatherly arguments warmed my heart or added to my anxiety. Usually, I just laughed instead of focusing on the confusion. I was loved, that’s what I needed to remember. I was 16 and both these men had higher dreams for my future than I did. When I nearly ruined my life with childish decisions at 19 years old, they both spent hours (and I mean hours) almost daily on the phone talking me through my decisions and asking me the hard questions no one else wanted to ask. 

Both of these men passed away within a year of each other.  It didn’t hit me until last night for some reason that neither of these men get to see my wedding. Neither of these men get to ask me the hardest questions of all: “Can you support this man when he seems unsupportable? Can you make him laugh when all you want to do is make him cry? Can you show him Christ when all you want to do is show him yourself?” 

Even at 16, they warned me about those questions. They told me what they wanted the answers to be and what they would do if my answers didn’t represent Christ. They were futuristically minded when I couldn’t be. They cared more for my future than almost any other nonrelated acquaintance ever had.

They didn’t plan on not being around to help me grow up, but they prepared me for the future just in case they weren’t.

What if we discipled like that more often? What if we strove to be involved with our mentees but prepared them to be just as godly, wise and prepared without us as they are when they are with us? What if we didn’t shield them from hard things but rather taught them that they can prepare for a storm before it comes? 

What if we discipled in such a way that those we disciple don’t pine after us after we’re gone but rather strive to immulate the Christ-like characters we focused on the most?

When Vanity Speaks

I growled at my reflection this morning (not a normal practice). “You have got to be kidding me!” I mumbled as I rolled my eyes. It was one red, slightly swollen pimple. On a 26-year-old. Skin allergies to my favorite stress food don’t take day off. As I quickly recounted my last three days of existence, I rolled my eyes even harder (is it possible to do that?).

One piece. Of chocolate. Uno. Singular. ONE! That’s what caused the stupid blemish on my face. Three days ago, I might add. As I glared at my reflection, I sarcastically confessed my “sin” of endulging in chocolate with with slight hopes that my action would make it disappear. No such luck. Apparently, the idea that acne disappears after you’re done growing up (at 5′ .5″, that’s a relative statement), doesn’t count for me. 

As I slipped into my comfy shorts, I sighed unhappily realizing that, though I’ve lost weight, I’ve gained muscle. All that means, for you patient men reading this, is the number isn’t shrinking as fast as I want it to (yesterday?). It’s just a number, but it’s a number that verifies I like eating, I’m comfortable in my body and… Well… I am well aware that my hips don’t react well to my addiction to salt and chips.

Because I spent my adolescent years drastically ill, my body didn’t have time to worry about weight or skin allergies. Eating chocolate meant I could wake up without drinking coffee — which often caused seizures. Eating chips meant my 85 pound frame might rise to a slightly more acceptable weight of 87; which I promptly worked off by having four or five more seizures. 

I may have looked model thin and not had to wrestle with the finer points of vanity, but it wasn’t worth it.

We often forget that blemishes, frustrations and the stupid things that distract us from God are there to prove we’ve lived. For God-honoring Christians, they’re also there to remind us that even in the mundane, we need God. 

It’s a stupid example, really. But this morning I was reminded that enjoying life often leaves its trace. May we learn to glory in the fact that the Creator has given us the ability to live. Maybe someday, we’ll learn to treasure the markings of life because the truth is, living fully is something not given to everyone. 

Before He Walks Away

Last night, I ran into a darling older gentleman. His smile lit up the room, his laugh made his eyes dance. I smiled at him when we made eye contact and my eyes subconsciously drifted to the long, curvy, pink scar on his head. He immediately put his hand on the scar, smiled apologetically, and sauntered away.

I knew something he had no chance of knowing, though. Despite the fact that my long hair covers my scar, I have the same abnormality on my skull. Just looking at his scar made the memories flood back, the well-informed prayers for this nameless stranger came to the forefront of my mind. 

I was not looking at him as if to pity him. I was looking at him because I understood him.

I know what it’s like to be laying in bed and feel my scalp shift a couple inches. I know what it’s like to have a migraine so bad the only thing that brings short term relief is pulling at the scar until I hear something pop. I know what it’s like to live in fear of being jostled in public, hitting my head and being thrown back into the chaotic dance of neurological studies.

I know what it’s like. But he didn’t know that. He didn’t give me a chance to explain, but I’m not sure I would have been prepared to say anything.

It’s easy to cover up the experiences that got us this far in life. It’s easy to meet people who aren’t as far along as we are and act like we’d never understand what they’re going through. It’s easy to act as if we don’t remember.

The fact of the matter is, though, it’s not just saving our reputations or keeping people at an acquaintance level. It’s about sharing with them what we know so they don’t feel alone. God made us relational beings. Real life includes sharing pain.