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