Yet You, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand. – Isaiah 64:8
I should really subtitle this blog “What I was doing when I should have been working on the Christian Counseling book.” OK, I’ll admit that I have been working on the book most of the afternoon, and my mind wandered a little for a bit. I am a hyperstimulation person, which means I work best when I have five or six things going on at the same time. For example: I am working on the Christian Counseling book, a website, grading papers, preparing for an ordination in New Jersey next weekend, and sitting here on FB. Most of the time when I am on FB, I am working on a project. At the moment, it’s pretty quiet here, save my neighbors who sound like they are having a log-rolling competition (see status for further details). I don’t have the television on, nor any music at the moment, and Gideon and Fiona are having moments of silence as they nap. So….yeah…it’s a little unstimulating here right now. I don’t have a lot of distractions, only projects. So…I started looking at FB profiles of people I knew “once upon a time.”
Out of the 2,697 friends I have on my personal FB profile, I’ve known only one of them for most of my life. When social networking first became popular with the advance of MySpace (do we all remember MySpace? Wow seems like a lifetime ago!), the first people I looked for were people I “knew” once upon a time. The reason for that was simple: most of the people I knew at the time were not really very tech savvy, and none of them thought the internet would ever take off (ha ha ha). So I looked for people I used to know, and found a few. I added them on MySpace and then later on Facebook, and kept them around for awhile. Most of them were on my profiles for well over three years. There was a common theme, however: only two of them ever talked to me, and the last time I talked to one of them, it really didn’t go well. The conversation started, after not speaking to me for over a year, like this: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you don’t look good in white.” Um…? Is there a right way to take it when someone starts the sentence with “Don’t take this the wrong way?” I am not a real sensitive person, but I must admit, that conversation really rubbed me the wrong way. In hindsight, maybe it wasn’t just the conversation that rubbed me that way, maybe it was the whole thing. Every time we talked, she didn’t like something about my life, or understand something, or didn’t want to talk about something, or always asked me the same question: “Don’t you ever do anything for fun?” I learned quickly there was no right way to answer this question as we had radically concepts of “fun” and apparently nothing I did was much “fun” to her. Then there were the others I knew who would post inappropriately on the networks or just generally ignored me. All these years later, I still wasn’t part of the group, and I was being ignored digitally now instead of in school. How stupid does it get, and HOW old are we now, again?
One of the things I began to find over time was so simple, I don’t know why I never considered it: the people I didn’t like once upon a time, I still didn’t like. The people I thought were kiss-ups, I still thought were kiss-ups. Overall, however, I found that I didn’t have anything in common with any of them anymore. What we had in common were things that we did a long time ago. What seemed so important back then – talking about television shows, life-or-death situations at school, who liked who, new life discoveries, “hanging out,” and the like…all didn’t seem so relevant anymore. They were things that mattered and were relevant then, but didn’t seem important anymore. Somehow, those things we used to have, the commonalities we had…weren’t that many…we just were in the same place, at the same time, and that was enough to have something in common.
So today I looked at a few “profiles” of people I knew. No, they aren’t my friends now; some of them never were. Those that once were probably won’t be my friends again. Some are married. Some are single. Some have children. Some are divorced. What scares me more than anything is the way that the same cliques are still together. They still don’t include this one or that one. Many of them are not that far from where they were ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. And then I think of myself: we’re older and I am still not in the clique. I still don’t fit in. Beyond this, I think what I have realized is that my life seems so different than it once did. I’ve been to school. I’ve lived in a few different states since then. I’ve worked up and down the east coast, the Midwest, and even in Puerto Rico. My perspective on life is radically different than it once was. I’ve met the Lord and that changed my entire life. He called me to be an apostle. I have met so many wonderful people and had so many awesome opportunities. I’ve written several books, published some, taken on a university chancellor position. Life is just so….different. Many of them are exactly where they used to be…but I’m not. It’s about more than what I have done, it’s about who I have become, and I owe that to Christ. Had He not intervened when He did in my life back in 1999, I am not sure where I would be now. It’s a dividing point, but it is also the pinpoint of something else: a new start, a new beginning, and a new person.
As I looked over the profiles of these people I once knew, I remembered. I remembered the good, and the bad: the parties, the fun, yes, the dates, the dances, the days spent playing on the railroad tracks, the games at recess, serving on the altar, getting into trouble, the fights and the arguments, the shared hopes and dreams, and the ambition that one day, we would all be together, in the same place. I was supposed to “marry” my first boyfriend and we’d all live in apartments in New York City, across the hall from one another, and never, ever again think about Catholic school, uniforms, and the like. I remembered the majority of my friends and associates lived with the abuses of our parents, and the majority of us lived with a parent who was an alcoholic. We lived abused by the Catholic Church, and didn’t even recognize it yet. Many of us stood together for years to come, through the death of parents and grandparents, friends and loved ones, deaths and suicides, college and beyond…and in what seems to have been the blink of an eye, ten, fifteen, twenty, and now over twenty years have passed.
In this process, I realized that I don’t miss my former life. I don’t miss who I was ten or twenty years ago. I don’t miss the people who weren’t what I needed then, and absolutely can’t be what I would need now. The people who were there for me then were there for that time and season, and I will forever be grateful for their presence. At the same time, I recognize they can’t be here for me where I am, now.
The song “Photograph” by Nickelback always makes me think of the concept of going back, looking back, and about the perspective needed to know when it is time to say good-bye to the past. We often talk about leaving the past behind in a negative context, as if what happened to us way back when was all bad. We need to realize this perspective is unbiblical, because the Word calls us to testify to where God has brought us from. God doesn’t call us to forget; He calls us to say good-bye when it is time to do so. This is a deeper process than we often recognize. In saying good-bye to the past, we are also saying good-bye to the people we used to be. Sometimes we are blessed with friends or family members who come with us into our new lives, but this doesn’t always happen. Saying good-bye is about more than just the bad – it’s about recognizing what was once good isn’t going to always be what’s needed in the present, and the future.
Good-bye gives us a respect for our foundations and a respect for moving on at the same time. It doesn’t disregard everything, but realizes it all has had its purpose at different points in time. We can respect the past without living in it now, or carrying it with us to wherever we are to go next. It’s OK to remember, to recall, and to testify. I am proud to say that thanks to God’s presence in my life, I am not that now which I once was – and I would not realize that if I never remembered where I came from. There are many things, given the opportunity, I would change about my life. Remembering means I recall good decisions and bad ones – and things I would love to change both now and then. Yet in looking at both who I used to know, where they are, and where I was, the one thing I would not change is the process the Lord has worked within me. Has it been a perfect journey, no, it has not – but I know that, in the long run, it is a blessing to continue to become the person He desires me to be.
“Every memory of looking out the back door, I have a photo album spread out on my bedroom floor – It’s hard to say, time to say it, Goodbye, goodbye…Every memory of walking out the front door, I found the photo of the friend that I was looking for – It’s hard to say, time to say it, Goodbye, goodbye” – Nickelback
(c) 2012 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.