Light turns to morning
You have been waiting
Whispering to me
Gently I’m waking
A few weeks ago in a random turn of events I dropped off a package at the UT campus here in Austin. The UT campus is what every college campus should be — beautiful, uniform, thriving with possibility. It was one of those cold, rainy days that most people hate but I happen to love where the rain comes down in little sprinkles that don’t really get you wet, as if the rain just wants someone to play with. The campus was stunningly peaceful. I parked and started my walk underneath the clouds of my favorite kind of day and dropped off my package. It wasn’t until I was walking back to my car, enjoying the stillness, that I started to get overcome by sadness.
This isn’t typical for me at all. I tend to be a sunny, positive person in the bleakest of situations. My instinct was to force sunshine back in to my day but the Holy Spirit, gentle as always, asked me why I thought I was sad. He knew what I didn’t, that I had grief I needed to process. It only took a few short sentences with Jesus before I realized I was grieving a life I was never going to have.
For those that don’t know my story here’s one of the important pieces — I dropped out of high school at the end of my junior year. I had always done exceptionally well in school, so the decision was shocking to everyone. There are deeper pieces of that story but for the sake of this post let’s just leave it there. I dropped out and didn’t get my GED until years later. By that point I was already working and had pushed any thoughts of college far out of mind.
Then came Jesus and He changed my life in the radical way that seems crazy unless you’ve experienced it. After that I was driven by wanting to serve Him. It was only a few months later that I threw myself into ministry and began the journey of preaching, teaching, and constant discovery of this person, Jesus.
Ten years later and I hadn’t thought about school at all until I was walking in the beautiful quiet of a college campus that I would never to get experience, at least not in the same way, and I was sad. I know people like to say, “I don’t regret anything because my choices made me the person that I am.” and believe me, I get it. But if we’re all being honest with ourselves, if there was a way to end up in the same place and become the same person and change some things in our past, we would probably take it.
I regretted not going to school, deeply. That little walk with Jesus exposed a whole host of grief that I had kept buried for a long, long, time. I would never get to be a young kid, fresh from their small hometown experiencing life on their own for the first time. I would never get to share dorm rooms with people and look like an idiot trying to find my first class. I would never get to be buried by a million books writing amazing papers that stressed me out but then brought me immense pride once they were finished. I would never get to walk across a stage knowing that I was more intelligent than when I started. And, I would never get to a spend a cold, rainy day surrounded by books and coffee studying and napping with no other care in the world than upcoming finals.
I said goodbye to that life as a child and there was no getting it back. So, I finished the walk to my car, let the grief wash over me, and I cried. Hard. I’m not a crier by nature, but that day I cried. I cried for the life I wouldn’t get it, the dreams that I had cared about more than I realized, and the mistakes I made as a broken child.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m immensely grateful for this amazing life Jesus has gifted me. But it didn’t change my need to hurt for a minute. Many times, we think joy and sadness are mutually exclusive, they’re not. And often we can’t move on to where we need to go because we’re still holding on to emotions from something we can’t have.
I needed to let go of something that day. Jesus knew that and as we walked through that process together the sadness was replaced with hope. It was as if He took this beautiful but juvenile picture I had painted in my subconscious and wiped it clean to make room for the masterpiece only He could create.
His plans are always better than our plans. His ways are always better than our ways. That doesn’t mean we can’t be sad for a little bit about the things we didn’t get to have. The emotions are there whether we choose to recognize them or not. The only difference is, once we bring them to His feet, He can actually help us move on from it.
There will always be things we have to let go of and move beyond. I’m not going to say it won’t be painful, because it will, but there’s a life of freedom on the other side of temporary pain. There’s no “right” time to process pain. But when you feel that little nudge from the Holy Spirit that says, “It’s time to deal with this.” Say yes.