I found out on Facebook.
Needing a break from my work, I clicked over to Facebook and scrolled. Scrolled and scrolled, stopping occasionally to click, but mostly scrolling. Then my eyes latched onto a short post from an old friend, and I froze.
Well, my scrolling finger froze, but my brain began spinning. What? How could this be? Was she sick? What happened? And then . . . I guess we’re never going to get together to catch up.
One of my best childhood friends died last month. My good friend who posted the announcement said it might have been an aneurysm. One minute she was fine; the next she was gone. As I read the news, I was flooded with a familiar regret.
Because my oldest daughter is in sixth grade this year and has, at times, been fully immersed in tween friend drama, my own tween friendships have come to mind frequently over the past several months. When my daughter cried about missing her friends who are in different classes this year and how she felt when some of those friends ignored her at lunch, I was immediately transported to my own middle school.
I spent all of my sixth grade year trying desperately to hold onto old friends who were rapidly becoming the “popular” girls. I also spent the year sitting next to my friend with the best big bangs and the funniest nicknames and the most infectious giggle. We had inside jokes and slumber parties, and we were totally BFF (best friends forever). But part of my friend-heart was never hers because I was holding out for those cool girls to finally realize they liked me after all.
At the end of our sixth grade year, my friend who’d been next to me all year announced she was moving. Her parents were getting divorced, and she was moving away with her mom. She was leaving, and I’d wasted all year taking her for granted because I wanted the popular girls to like me.
I thought of all of this when I heard this same friend had died. Not because I still felt guilty (although, fine, I did), but because I’d missed another chance to spend time with her much more recently. After living a few states away for years, she’d moved back to our hometown, just a few miles away from where I live now. When I saw that announcement (on Facebook, of course), I said what we all say, all the time: “We should get together!”
She agreed, we added some smiley face emojis, and then never talked again.
We didn’t get together. We didn’t catch up. We didn’t reconnect or reminisce. We didn’t do anything, and now it’s too late.
I’m not sharing this story to place my regrets on your shoulders. And even though beating myself up for being human is my default setting, I’m not allowing myself to wallow in shame here either.
But I am trying to learn from this experience.
A few months ago, we had no idea what was coming around the corner. I suppose that’s true for every season of every year; we can’t predict the future! But what has taken place this spring has been so alarming, so unprecedented, so life-altering that it certainly falls under the category of “didn’t see that coming”!
We didn’t know. We couldn’t have guessed. But even if we had, I wonder what we would have done differently. Who would we have hugged or visited or finally met for that lunch we’d been talking about forever? What project or errand or getaway would we have done right then, when we could? Would we really have done anything differently?
I’m not sure I would have. I think sometimes we have to learn the hard way; I certainly do.
But now that I’ve done some more hard learning, I’m praying that God will keep me mindful of this feeling without letting me be swallowed by regret. I’m praying that from now on I will prioritize people over my schedule. I’m asking Him to give me the motivation to redeem the time He’s given me — whether that’s time at home or time in the world. I’m praying for a heart that understands and accepts that we aren’t given any earthly guarantees but also trusts the Lord and doesn’t fear for the future.
It’s a tall order. I’m asking God to change me down to the very foundation of who I am — to make me more like Jesus, who seized every moment of mission and relationship He was given but also rested and recharged when He needed to. This all-or-nothing, procrastinating woman with misplaced priorities is a far cry from what Jesus modeled. But I trust that He will continue the good work He’s begun in me until I truly am who He created me to be (Philippians 1:6).
As our world yearns for all the things we’re missing, I’ve heard some people ask, “What will you do when things get back to normal?” Friends have shared the first place they want to go or the first person they want to visit, and these are good things. But I have spent a lifetime planning what I’ll do in the future — on Monday, when I finish this project, when I lose weight, when my husband stops working nights, when we’re not so busy. Now I want to ask God what He has for me to do right now.
I can’t get back the time I might have spent connecting with an old, dear friend. And we can’t go back to early 2020 and do all the things we were later kept from doing. But I can move forward in Jesus’s footsteps. I can reach out to a friend today. I can pick up the phone to — gasp! — call someone instead of text. I can look my kids in the eyes and let loose a belly laugh when they act ridiculous and play outside even though I really need to start dinner. I can pick up my Bible and let the Lord speak to me instead of hitting snooze one more time.
And when I don’t (because not one of us can do it all right, all the time — especially when handling a worldwide crisis!), I can leave my regrets at God’s feet and start again.
How has this pandemic changed the way you think
about how you want to live differently?
I have spent a lifetime planning what I’ll do in the future. Now I want to ask God what He has for me to do right now. -@marycarver: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
When my children were little, and I would tuck them in bed at night, I would pray, “Lord, for all the times I came up short today, would YOU please fill in the gaps with your love and sufficiency?!” I wasn’t trying to “pass the buck” but I knew that every day I wasn’t going to get mothering exactly right and I desperately needed God’s grace to fill in. I feel much the same right now…needing God’s grace to fill in the gaps of regret – times I put “to-do’s” before spending time with people that I can’t spend time with right now. I’m also trying not to wish away today wanting things to return to “normal.” I’m asking God to help me learn what I can glean from my “new normal” which is today. Poignant, thought-provoking post, Mary.
I love that prayer, Bev!
Mary Carver says
That is the perfect prayer for parents — and for all humans, really! Thank you, Bev.
Beth Williams says
This world has run at breakneck speed for far to long. We are constantly running to the next event, activity or work deadline. Families & friends would text each other stuff. Not much face to face time. Everyone has been planning out their futures without living in the here & now. God has put a stop to that for a while. He wants us to connect with each other verbally face to face. Most people don’t think about how fragile life is & how quickly we can lose someone. Being someone who thinks about people all the time & missing my church peeps I am wanting to reconnect any way I can. Some people I call & give & receive updates-one I send cards to as she is going through chemo now. All to soon those people can be taken away from us. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to tell someone I love you & care for you. My life hasn’t changed much-just slowing down a bit more & taking more time to commune with God & His children.
Mary Carver says
Yes, I’m trying to take advantage of this forced slowing down, to see the gift in this difficult time!
This is so wonderfully expressed, Mary! It gives one pause for thought…And prayer. Thank you!
Mary Carver says
Thank you for reading, Irene!
I’m taking time to reach out to people in our church more. Sending cards, emails, texts …just because. Making phone calls to check on people.
I’m the pastor’s wife and I’m doing this not out of obligation but a true desire to encourage more.
Mary Carver says
Carla, I love that. My daughters and I have been sending lots of cards and notes, too.
this pandemic has made me more spontaneous. before I was a careful permanent calling friends to book in a tea for two weeks ahead; but honestly what if two weeks ahead gets messed up like it suddenly did this year ?
so I think of someone I stop what I’m ďoing and call them. life has shown me that we can’t have total control..we can’t rely on ” later” for things. this pandemic has shown me to embrace a lighter life of not being so rigid and having to control my everyday. life is good even when it changes !! God’s always here and I’m flowing with changes better.
sorry typo.. should read preplanning to call friends
Mary Carver says
“Life is good even when it changes” – so good! Thank you for sharing that.
I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your thoughts this morning
.Blessings to all,
Mary Carver says
Penny, thank you for your kind words.
Dawn Ferguson-Little says
Mary I am sorry for your loss that is a bit like my Uncle 20 years ago. My Aunt was happy married. He said he was fit and healthy. Had sore head this day. Went to bed for a lie down. Never woke up again. You never know the moment you could be hear one minute and gone the next. I don’t think he was saved. He was favorite Uncle. My Aunt is my Favorite she misses him still. She still not saved. I pray for her salvation. I say make the most of the time you have with your Family and Friends. Age means nothing. As you don’t know from the minute you get up to go bed if you will see the end of the day. It so important to be saved. I can’t tell that to my Family Aunts Uncles Sisters Dad etc none saved. As they say keep all to yourself. They say don’t preach too us. A row go up. They believe when you die you go Heaven any way. How sad. I just live my life as follower of Jesus in front of them all and pray for them to see the light in me want what I have that ia Jesus as their Saviour. I don’t want anything from my Dad who is 80 next year. Just to see him Saved would be the best gift he could ever give me. That ia why I thank God for every day I am alive. I am glad my Husband is saved too. I glad I am not of the world. I we appreciate all God have given us. I know if anything happen to me I want this song by Dave bilbrough played it is called. You can’t get on Youtube There is a God in Heaven. It goes like this who died for all my sins. Shed his blood on the cross. My family will get a shock at that song being played. It not that long for them to listen to the words of it. If not saved. It not that long a song. Then it goes it was finished was his cry. Not even death could deny the Son of God exalted High. Then I want the person doing the service to say after that. That song is what Dawn belived and that is why she is with Jesus today. If you not saved want too see her again you can by getting saved if not saved. My Family will get a shock as it will be different. If not saved by then my family. I will say a prayer for you for the loss of your friend. Love your reading today. How important it is too be saved. Xxx
Mary Carver says
Thank you for sharing your heart with us, Dawn.
I think I understand some of what you have been through… I had a friend – a good, helpful neighbor for 8 years, with whom I kept in touch when I moved 400 miles away. The bond of good & bad times, sharing & caring for our kids & life in general was precious. We kept in touch for 36 years; letters, Christmas cards, supporting one another through life’s trials…my telling her how I became a Christian & it was the best thing ever to happen to me…Then, last Christmas, I sent a card as usual, but just thought to enclose my address & mobile number, ‘in case she had moved….’
A month went by.. then I got a text from her daughter .. after a short illness, my friend had died – 6 months ago…so sad – I had no idea. Good came out of it, I phoned her daughter & still have that contact but my planned reunion time with my friend, this summer – was never going to happen…. (although as it turns out, it wouldn’t have been able to take place anyway..)
What have I learned? If you feel strongly to do something good – don’t put it off. It would be lovely to think I could see her again.. one day. I do wish I could be certain – but I can’t..
Mary Carver says
Ros, yes – don’t put it off. It’s a hard lesson, but once we’ve learned it, hopefully we can change. I think there’s something uniquely difficult about learning that someone we care about has died and we didn’t even know.
Such a great post, Mary! Thanks for sharing.
Peace and Blessings,
Gillian Mackenzie says
This pandemic has changed the way I think about God – but not in a good way. It has caused so much suffering and heartache in my family, that my faith is shaken to the core. I’m angry at God and frightened of Him. I long to feel the way you other, wonderful ladies do. But I’m just not able to see a future …
Gillian – I don’t know what your circumstances are but God is in your midst – He would leave the 99 to rescue you – don’t be afraid of Him! Everything is upside down now and who knows when (or if) we will feel right side up again. We may have to forge ahead to a new normal. Now my husband tells me that this is the year of locusts…seriously?! I’ve missed weeks of seeing my elderly mother, haven’t been in a grocery store in 2 months and practically had to breath into a paper bag to get my hair cut this week. (I’m not kidding you!) We have weathered these uncharted times only by His grace. I have a young grandson and I’m so concerned that sickness will get to him as his mother is an essential worker – but I give it to God everyday and He sees us through. Praying that God will show himself to you and comfort and keep you today and in all the days ahead.
Mary Carver says
Gillian, thank you for having the courage to share your heart with us here. I hear you and while I don’t know what you’re going through or how you feel, I do know how it feels to question God when things are so unbearably awful. Here’s what I have clung to in those times: God loves me, and God is good, and God never changes. God is with the brokenhearted. So even when everything else is up in the air and/or weighing me down, I can hold onto those things. I’m praying right now that you can remember those truths as well and that they bring you some measure of hope during this time. I also pray that you stay with us here at (in)courage, because you are not alone in your struggles and heartache here.
We went from 60 miles an hour to zero in the blink of an eye. I don’t want to go back to that fast paced living. I knew God wanted me to slow down for a while but I didn’t know how. So now I’m praying, seeking and asking what changes he wants me to make. What things does he want me to say “no” to for now?
Before lockdown started I had an argument with a friend some words were said in a text and after that it was radio silence. Eventually when I had to be in contact with her again she called off the friendship. She has done this before and I would not want to accept it because I feel like God has placed her in my life for a reason and I’m not going to give up just because feelings got hurt. I’m an introvert and like to be quiet after an argument to be calm and allowing time for processing. She is the total opposite. So in this week 2 people that I knew passed away and I felt so sad. One was a young man and the other a older lady who went to be witb the Lord from a previous church. Through all this I learned that life is but a wind. It changes constantly and we have to adapt. This pandemic has made me realise that I have to spend more time with God… Put him first and all these “other” things which God has in store for you will be given to you. All I can do is work on me so that my life reflects God more than anything else. I know I will get it wrong sometimes or mess up but as long as I have breath in my lungs I will keep on trying. This pandemic has made me miss people and the human contact of a hug or just getting together for coffee or lunch. I realised things will never be “normal” again.. And guess what I’m okay with that.
Mary Carver says
Oh, Lily, I am so sorry for your losses! Difficulty upon difficulty must make this season feel so hard. Praying God brings you comfort and peace today.
karyn j says
i love this! i’m in a season where i’m trying to learn me and what God has for me and who i am in Him. so your tweet really resonates with me. but i’ve changed it ever so slightly to read, i’ve spent a lifetime trying to be and thinking i was in control. now i’m letting go and want to ask God what He has for me. thank you for sharing this!
Mary Carver says
Karyn, that sounds like a wise approach to this season! I pray God will reveal His heart for you, to you!