This past week I was looking for something in a closet and came across a box of old handwritten letters. They were still in their original envelopes, held together with rotted rubber bands. I pulled them out and the next thing I knew, I had lost an entire afternoon.
What a kick to read stories from my then-25 year old sister gushing about the new job she had come to love. To revisit my mother’s fretting over her upcoming nursing board exams and hear again, at the end of every letter, how much she loved me. Priceless.
There was my Dad, telling about a fire in the building next door to the church, so hot it melted the plastic curtains in one of the Sunday School rooms and laughing about living in such a small town, he had driven to the next city to mail a letter, just for something to do.
What a joy to see the familiar handwriting of my beloved former mother-in-law, recounting stories of roses, relationships, and recalcitrant offspring in her inimitable way. She was a writer, and a good one; it felt like she was right there next to me.
So much water has passed under the bridge since then. Many of those experiences had evaporated like a mist – or so I thought – but reading those old letters brought them back.
Of course, I was thrilled to be reminded of the good times. But as I read, other memories from that time of my life came flooding over me and soon I was awash with longing, sadness, and regret.
From my perspective all these years later, I knew the very difficult path my life would take not long after those letters were written and I wanted to go back and do it all differently. Do it in a way that wouldn’t have hurt the people I loved and would have spared me a lot of pain, too. Do it in a way that would have honored God and wouldn’t have required such a circuitous path back to Him.
What’s more, I realized there was a pattern to the missteps I had taken over the years. I’ve made some of the same mistakes more than once and it seems I have had to learn certain lessons again and again.
I tossed and turned a lot that night.
Interestingly, the very next morning God led me to these words from Oswald Chambers in the devotional My Utmost for His Highest:
“Oh, the deep, unending sadness for what might have been! God never again opens the doors that have been closed. He opens other doors, but He reminds us that there are doors which we have shut – doors which had no need to be shut. Never be afraid when God brings back your past. Let your memory have its way with you. It is a minister of God bringing its rebuke and sorrow to you. God will turn what might have been into a wonderful lesson of growth for the future.”
Yep, I shut some doors, doors some of which had no need to be shut. And I had some doors shut on me along the way, too. My memory is certainly a rebuke and a sorrow. But God has never allowed me to shut Him out and instead, has opened other doors for me.
Even now, in His grace He whispers, “You’re learning.”
(If you’d like to receive an email when I publish new posts, please visit my home page here and subscribe. I’d be honored!)
- Maybe This Will Help - February 10, 2017
- I’m Firing Olivia Pope - January 24, 2017
- I’m crossing some things off my list this year - January 11, 2017
- I learned a new word - November 30, 2016
- The best question I’m asking myself these days - July 18, 2016
- A tragic story with a tender twist - May 17, 2016
- Gosh, people are a mess - May 12, 2016
- I’ll take the red carnation, thank you – revisiting an odd tradition - May 2, 2016
- The surprising thing about “weakness” - April 20, 2016
- The holiness of a four-way stop - April 13, 2016