Have you ever climbed a mountain and then paused to rest and look back at where you have traveled? From that vantage point you can see your trail….way off in the distance. You can see that what felt like mountains when you were walking them, were merely rolling hills or maybe just a stone on the path. Life is like that too, I think. Isn’t it funny how things seem SO huge in the moment as you face them, but rather small in retrospect? The older you get, the farther you can look back and see more of the path you’ve traveled…and realize this. I remember when I was 12 years old and a boy asked me to “go steady”. I was over the moon with joy…. until my parents told me that I wasn’t allowed to go steady. Wait….what???? My world crushed in around me and I was ready to end it all. Life had no meaning and was just not worth living! I laugh at the absurdity of those thoughts now.
Recently, we were challenged to think about a time of adversity…a time where things were really hard and you couldn’t understand why they were happening to you… a time when God seemed absent, apathetic, or angry. So I sat and thought and I pondered that question. I certainly know that I’ve felt that way, because I’ve always had a tendency to be a drama queen, as evidenced above. I’m sure that my path has had plenty of mountains of adversity. However, I couldn’t immediately recall any. It was then that I realized why They, those difficult times, had all been redeemed for something good. What I was seeing when I looked back was the phoenix that rose from the ashes so to speak. The good had tamped down the bad to a point that it was difficult to even remember.
Our life recently provided us with a very powerful metaphor for this thought. When we were first married, Steve was in the Air Force and we were stationed in England for two years. It was at the beginning of our marriage, and we were sent across the pond to fend for ourselves without the support of family and friends. From where we stand today, on the brink of our 40th wedding anniversary, we both firmly proclaim our time there was an adventure that cemented the foundation for our marriage. That season prepared us for our life together in more ways than we can count. We look back with the gratitude and glowing memories, smiles of our experiences there, and forever friendships established that have not been diminished by time. A couple of years ago, we were fortunate enough to make a wonderful trip back to this place where our marriage began. It was a lovely time machine of memories. As we began our preparation, I ran across some letters that I had written to my mother and grandparents in our days there. Every . single . letter . was positively filled with how much we wanted to come home, how miserable we were, how difficult it was, how poor we were, how cold we were, and how we were counting our days to leave!! Not an adventure… a sacrifice! We felt that we were being punished while everyone else was living a great life in the good old USA. We were shocked to read these words, for we did not remember any of those feelings or that misery that we were obviously experiencing. All we can see now was how good it was for us and our marriage. If not for that…perhaps we wouldn’t have weathered some of the later storms. It was a rather startling revelation to say the least. If not for the letters, we would not have believed that we ever felt that way.
Our experiences have shown us that times of adversity built us the most and made us better, stronger, and more faithful. We can see many more examples when we dig for them. We’ve weathered job losses, financial worries, deaths, illnesses, and the heartache of horrible misunderstandings with loved ones…. just like others in this human condition. We could see His plan was sometimes not what we were hoping or praying for, but it always proved to be more worthy than ours. I believe that. Our trail is longer, at this age, and enables us to look farther back. That does not negate the feelings that we felt along the way…the sadness and pain of losses, the doubts of our direction, the mistakes we inevitably made, but it is so comforting and encouraging to be able to see the redemptive quality of all of those experiences. Each time we find ourselves in that space of uncertainty, it gets a little bit easier to trust that, this too, will be so.
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