I grew up going to church with some amazing people. During a very vulnerable time of my life, they influenced me for good and helped me become the person I am today. During the past week, I have had multiple opportunities to visit with many of these wonderful friends. It has truly been a blessing to reconnect with them and to have the time to look back.
As a young woman, I was outgoing, confident and very social. I had lots of friends and loved doing things with them. Sometimes we planned our time together, but more often than not, we just “hung out”. There were the endless hours at Tammie’s house, playing Barbies and watching videos. There were many sleepovers at Jennifer’s house, swimming in the pool and trying to hide from her siblings. There were sunny afternoons spent at Darla’s house, jumping on the only trampoline in the neighborhood. There were the nighttime activities…football games, dances, McDonald’s gatherings…followed by “dragging Main” in Jana’s VW Bug. And there were the constant youth activities, supervised by awesome leaders who were determined to give us a foundation of truth to fall back on.
As I look back and reflect on the girl I was, I am left wondering what happened to her? At some point, that outgoing, confident, social teen disappeared and became the somewhat insecure, uncertain, self-doubting woman of today. When did I change? And why? And perhaps more importantly, how do I get back the things I’ve lost?
A few nights ago, sitting amidst my childhood friends, I was more comfortable than I have been for years. Many of these people I haven’t spoken to since my high school graduation in 1986, and yet, it was as if no time had passed at all. The confidence born of shared experience returned and I became the self-assured girl I once was: content with who I was then, and OK with who I have become today. I miss that girl. I miss her courage. I miss her carefree attitude. I miss her authenticity and vulnerability. I miss her ability to be herself and to let that be enough. I miss her endless faith in God and her willingness to endure without being shaken.
I’m not sure where I left her, but this morning, I have a desire to figure it out. I’d like to travel back in time to discover the moments wherein I lost some of the integral pieces of the person I used to be. Since that isn’t possible, I am choosing to look back, searching my memories for those points of significant change. I don’t want to be stuck in the past, longing for what used to be. But there is a part of me that needs to take this journey, looking back just far enough to examine the missing pieces and put them back where they belong. The challenges that have been presented to me thus far in my mortal sojourn have left me feeling empty … cracked … broken. It’s time to repair the cracks and refill the well that has been drained through years of experience. I’m a better person for those experiences. I don’t want to GO back to change the past. But for some reason, LOOKING BACK and assessing where the damage took place, seems important.
“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.” (Billie Mobayed)
Another quote I love is written on a wall in the office of Family Strategies, located in Mesa, AZ. It goes something like this:
“Perhaps strength does not lie in having never been broken … but in the courage required to seek out the cracks … and then grow strong in the broken places.
Both of these quotes give a perspective of hope to some otherwise difficult, and sometimes depressing, challenges. As I have come to an understanding and acceptance of the fact that my life on this earth is going to be hard and that cracks are to be expected, it has become easier to fill in the cracks and glue the chips back in their place, rather than simply lamenting as I watch my life fall apart. Perhaps, in a perfect world, the cracks wouldn’t even exist. But this world isn’t perfect …far from it, in fact… and that was the way it was intended to be. For, as Sheri Dew has been known to say, “If life were easy, it wouldn’t be hard!”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had this to say about looking back:
“The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future.” (“Remember Lot’s Wife, BYU Speeches, 2009)
The girl I once was no longer exists. There are, however, parts of her I want to reclaim, while still holding on to the good parts of the woman I have become. And so, as I look back, I also look forward. I look forward with faith in Christ, knowing that He plans to do much more than repair my “broken places”. His plan involves something that only He can accomplish: EXALTATION. As I look forward to the day that I will meet Him, with the redemptive, healing, and saving power of His atonement in full effect, my hope is that I might live each day, seeking to make the most of the lessons of the past while learning to love who I am today. That may be the most difficult task of all…but with the enabling power of the Savior’s grace on my side, I can do all things…