Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the past. My last three posts have been about specific things that happened to me in the past. The past makes us who we are in the present.
I met a girl when I was in my late teens. In fact, my favorite picture from my senior prom is of me and her. Even though she was a year older than me, when we met she was a friend of my younger brother. Suddenly she was always there, a part of the group that was always at our house. And one day it just clicked.
We became a matched pair. There were many years when I wondered if God had made her just for me, and me for her. No one understood us like we understood each other. At the time I laughed, saying that God made her my brother’s friend first but my friend forever. We were sure that no matter what happened, we would always be together.
We laughed together. We cried together. We dreamed together. We made plans together. We couldn’t imagine a time when we wouldn’t be together.
As we grew through our late teens and early twentys together, we had a plan. We dreamed about our weddings. We talked about the kids we would raise in houses side by side. There was never a time we could envision being apart.
We shared other friends, but we always came first with each other. If we weren’t with the guy we were sure we’d end up with, you could count on finding one of us with the other.
The past and our memories are so tricky. There are those time that you think you will never forget that become faint memories, and then there are those time that you wish you could forget that stay with you forever.
One night I can remember like it was yesterday. A boy broke my heart, again, and there she was. We, the two of us and a couple of others, were sitting outside of my house in that small town. My car was parked on the curb with the radio playing Phil Collins “Against All Odds.” (We may have had it on repeat. It was our anthem.) We dug a hole in my front yard and buried things in it that reminded me of him. It started to rain, but she was still there with me. Sitting here tonight, I wondered if anyone ever found them after we moved.
We laughed together. We cried together. Sometimes we even laughed and cried at the same time. Being with her grew me, not only as a person but also in my faith. Her faith in God was so strong, and she brought me along with her. I was never far from God, but she brought me even closer.
One of the hardest memories I have of us was the day we said goodbye. I had decided to head south. I needed to make a change and had family I could go stay with. It was heartbreaking to leave her behind, but we laughed about how I would send for her. Our plan was for me to go first. I would get settled, and then she would come and join me. We would build our futures together in the south.
During the month between the time my plans were made and the day I would leave, our plans changed again. She would be heading west for a time, leaving just days before I would head south and getting back after I was gone. It would change our short-term plans but not the long-term ones. Instead of me leaving her, she would be leaving first. And when she returned from her trip, I would already be gone. I think that made it harder for both of us to go, but we both knew it was the right thing to do.
The beginning of the end
And that’s when everything changed. Her short trip turned into a full-blown move west. My move south turned into a summer trip. I remember how hard it was to be home without her. I remember always being sure that I was enough to bring her home. I remember missing her so much even though we tried to stay in contact.
We both made new friends. We both started new lives. We talked on the phone regularly. We sent letters and cards. On one of her rare trips back, she introduced me to my husband. And even then, when I thought about the future, I imagined us together.
She told me then that she was never moving back. Honestly, I didn’t believe her, but we talked of both moving to the middle, of the plan to grow old together, of raising our kids together, of knowing that no matter what, as long as we had each other everything else would be okay.
It turns out she was telling the truth. She never moved back. I married that amazing guy she introduced me to, and she moved all over the west side of the United States. I started a family, and she found a calling. I’m called Mom and she’s called pastor. And as happens with time and distance, we drifted apart.
We tried to hold on. We tried to keep those dreams of youth alive. But we both changed. I’m not sure those girls we were would recognize either of the women we are today. And as people do, we drifted apart. I didn’t even know it was happening until it was too late. And, looking back, I hope she didn’t notice either.
Today we can peek into each others lives through Facebook. We wish each other a happy birthday. Rarely we send real, thought out messages. If you weren’t there for the years when we were as one, you wouldn’t know that at one point we had trouble breathing when we were apart.
His plan is better than ours
God has a plan for all of us. He knows the choices we will make. He knows the path we will choose. In the spring of 2001, He knew that I would be coming back and that she wouldn’t. He knew we wouldn’t be raising kids in houses side by side. He knew I wouldn’t send for her, and He knew she wouldn’t come,
If I has stayed in the south, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have the two amazing little boys that are curled up together right now. If she had come back, she wouldn’t have met her husband. She wouldn’t be ministering over her church. I wouldn’t be who I am and she wouldn’t be who she is.
There have been days when I have missed what we were with a pain so intense that I curled into a ball and cried (and prayed that she had days even worse), but I know that we are both where we belong. And I wouldn’t trade a moment of what I have today for a life time of what we were then.
I believe God puts people into our paths for a reason. My life today would not be what it is without those years she and I spent together. There are so many things today that I can point to and say, “She helped get me here.”
Look at the people around you. Look at the people in your past. Look at the people who have come and gone, whether you’ve drifted apart, or they’ve died, or are still there.
God has a plan, and it’s better than any plan I ever made. All those people are a part of His plan for you. She was a big part of His plan for me, and I hope she knows that I’m a better person for the time we had together. I hope I’m a part of His plan for you, and if I am, I pray my words help lead you down the right path, His path.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” -Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)