I turned 44 last week. It kind of hurt. When I was a kid, I used to lay underneath my yellow and white tulip-covered comforter playing a game in my head that went something like this: I’m 10, my sister is 6. In four years, I’ll be 14, and she’ll be ten. When she’s 14, I’ll be ready to graduate from high school. And when she’s 18, I’ll be 22! I’d continue on until I reached about 30. Then my mind would go blank, because I could not even begin to fathom what my life would be like at 30! That was the age of my mother, whom I believed to be ancient!
Looking in the rearview mirror of the 34 years that have passed since I began playing that childhood head game, I can see how the enemy of my soul has been like a hitchhiker, always on the side of life’s road, trying to thumb a ride. Sometimes I’ve maintained a steady pace and ignored him completely as I kept my eye on the “prize.” Sometimes I’ve slowed down to get a better look, and somehow ended up in the opposite lane facing oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, there have also been times when I’ve stopped to pick him up and ended up on a wild goose chase as I followed his misguided directions.
After those awful detours, I’ve had to call upon my Jesus to remove the enemy from my life’s vehicle. After closing the door in his face I continued on my journey, more cautious than before. Watchful.
This past week, that hitchhiker has shown up several times. He isn’t always dressed the same, so I wondered if it really was him. He wore the cloak of Confusion one day. And then masqueraded as Fear of Failure the next, whispering, “Don’t bother trying. You will never get this book published anyway. It’s way too long. And who really cares? Lots of people live lives way more dramatic than yours. Blah. Blah. Blah.” Once or twice (or sadly more) he boldly stood in the middle of my road as Pride. The swerve I had to make to avoid him almost ended me up in the ditch. “Just leave that part of the story out. It isn’t very flattering, you know. You say you’re protecting someone else, but you really want to protect yourself.”
I’ve had to draw my Sword on him a few times lately, claiming scriptures like Psalm 40:11, “ Do not withhold your mercy from me, O Lord; may your love and your truth always protect me.” God, your love and truth will protect me, right? The truth sets people free. Those guys in the Bible didn’t always make perfect choices. Still, you used them. I just want You to use me. “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and I will walk in Your truth. Give me an undivided heart, that I may bless Your name.” (Psalm 86:11)
Today I had lunch with three beautiful ladies. We laughed and talked and shared stories of our lives. One of them asked me afterward, “So, why are you writing this book anyway?”
I said something like, “Because I want to help other Christian people who live with an addict in their family.” Then I started singing a childhood church song with the words slightly changed, “With an addict in the family, not-so-happy-home, not-so-happy-home, not-so-happy-home…”
She cracked up laughing then said, “It’s so true, isn’t it?”
Most of us in pews have someone in our inner circle who is addicted. Not all of it is drugs. Sometimes it’s food. Or media. Or porn. Whatever it is, it hurts us. It hurts our families. Hurts our relationship with God. Everything suffers.
When we’re ten years old, dreaming in our beds of what our lives will be like when we’re 20 or 30, we do not imagine that we’ll ever be married to an addict. We never fathom that we could become the addicted one. We only dream those “happily-ever-after” bedtime story dreams.
By the time we’re 40 or 50, we realize that the choices we made in our 20’s are affecting not only us, but also our children and even their children. Who we slept with, who we married, what habits we developed, our career choices – all of these decisions have had a trickle-down effect. Our families now reap what we’ve sown. We keep reaping what we’ve sown.
Sitting at a cozy café table with those three precious women today, I listened to their chit-chat, smiled at their stories of adult kids and grandbabies as they passed around their cell phone snapshots vying for the “whose got the cutest grandson” title. As I observed them, the realization dawned on me that they have each been long-married to the same “good man” they originally started with. No divorces. No regrets.
Now that they are all retired, they happily enjoy life with their husbands, kids and grandkids. It was a rare treat to lunch with them. Even rarer to observe their shared dynamic of longevity and security in their marriages. I wondered how they had done it. But I didn’t ask.
Instead I played that old game in my head, except this time it went something like this: “I’m 44. My husband is 56. We don’t have kids. When I’m 56, he’ll be 68. That’s about the same age as my friend’s husband. And he’s retired. In twelve years, my husband might be retired. And we won’t have any grandkids to brag about or show pictures of… Right there, I knew I needed to take those thoughts into captivity before that hitchhiker hijacked a wonderful luncheon with my friends. I recognized him in the nick of time, slinking up on me in the guise of Regret.
I know my friends’ lives aren’t perfect. We’ve shed some tears together over the years as they’ve also suffered the heartache of watching loved ones make poor choices. But I admire whatever it was that they did right in their pasts so they can be in a place to truly enjoy their present.
As my sister, Ami likes to say, “Life is all about choices.” I suppose it’s really true. We reap what we sow. We get out what we put in. We choose whom we serve. Are you living today in such a way that your family will benefit from your choices for generations to come? Am I?
Father God, I choose You today. I’m sorry for allowing my own willfulness to get in the way of Your plans for my life in the past. I know that 44 years is but a grain of sand in Your hourglass. Thank you for redeeming the things I thought were lost. Thank you for my kind and gentle husband. Although we may never celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary, please help me to treasure each day we have together and to celebrate what you have given to me, rather than lament the things I don’t have. Give me the grace to live my life in such a way that Your Name is glorified. Protect me from the hitchhiker. I don’t want to give him any more rides. Help me to live in the grateful present, not the regrets of the past, or the unforeseen future. Just right here and right now. One moment at a time. One godly choice at a time. In the name of Jesus, amen.
p.s. Matthew West wrote a song that resonates with me & couples very well with this post. Maybe you’ve heard it on your Christian radio station. Here are the lyrics & the You Tube link:
Hello, my name is regret
I’m pretty sure we have met
Every single day of your life
I’m the whisper inside
That won’t let you forget
Hello, my name is defeat
I know you recognize me
Just when you think you can win
I’ll drag you right back down again
‘Til you’ve lost all belief
These are the voices, these are the lies
And I have believed them, for the very last time
Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I’ve been saved, I’ve been changed, and I have been set free
“Amazing Grace” is the song I sing
Hello, my name is child of the one true King
I am no longer defined
By all the wreckage behind
The one who makes all things new
Has proven it’s true
Just take a look at my life
What love the Father has lavished upon us
That we should be called His children
I am a child of the one true King