So much of my life I spent wishing I could go back.
Back to rushing into grad school when I wasn’t positive what I wanted to do.
Back to basically almost failing out of college (twice).
Back to the night I said yes to going on a date, the night I was raped.
Back to choosing not to carry my pregnancy.
Back to when the molestation began.
I have wished to go back so I could do something. So I could say something. So I could alter the course of what was to come. These things, I see them now in a way I couldn’t as a teenager and in my early twenties. I see how they were building blocks for bad choices. One thing preceded the next, and each new thing made me feel a little more reckless and a little less alive.
I want to go back and rescue that little girl. I want to save her from a man who made her feel like no one could protect her. I want to go back and reassure that teenage mom. I want to tell her that it would be hard but she would figure it out. I want to go back and hold that college girl as she wept, so afraid she would never made it. I want to wipe her tears and tell her that she was going to make it through. I want to tell that grad student filling the whole in her heart with school that it didn’t matter how great her GPA was and how well she scored on the comps. I want to convince her that she didn’t need to find her worth in those numbers.
But I can’t. As much as my heart longs for me to be able to close my eyes and reach back into time, I just cannot.
And you know, in a weird way, I don’t think I really want to anymore.
I heard a speaker last week talk about the life he and his wife had before her massive stroke at 26. It should have killed her but God spared her life. The husband said that sometimes they had wished they could go back to before — before the stroke and the endless disabilities and medical tests and surgeries and and and.
Then he said, his voice so steady and clear, “We could never go back because we were different people.”
The experience had changed him. He could not unknow. He couldn’t go back to the person he was and his wife was because time and heartache had changed them, but the change all wasn’t for the worse.
God reminded me gently then, “No matter how hard you burn to go back, you can’t. You only get to move forward, and forward is so much better than back could ever be.”
It’s so true. I can look back and yearn for a peaceful life, but it won’t be do any good. I can pine for the person I would have become had those terrible things not happened to me, but she will never be someone who exists in reality — only in my imagination will I know her. And that is a little hard. I mourn for that girl who never got to see the light of day. But. There is always a but.
I can say clearly now, my own voice steady and unwavering: how can I long to be anything but thankful for the woman I am today? I have endured so much. I have suffered and I have cried and I have feared for my life. It has been a hard and an unfair road compared to so many my age.
But I have known joy, joy that has imparted itself in my very bones, into my DNA. I have laughed and celebrated and had my heart changed and stretched. I have felt love that is so beautiful is leaves me breathless, heart racing. I look in the mirror and I don’t see a face that reflects a lifetime of suffering. I see a face that reflects a lifetime of delight.
If I could go back, I might not be hurt so badly. But I might miss all the joy. I might miss the moments that have made me proud of who I am today. When I think about all those times God told me, “Look ahead. Focus on what I have down the road for you,” I remember how hard it was for me to have trust and how somehow I did it.
Not trusting would mean that the great hope I have seen and felt and have within me would be diminished.
So I’ll choose to trust. I won’t look back, at least not in a way that leaves me wishing I could change things. I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’ll never really be able to fully understand while I’m on this earth why I had to suffer, why my road started out on such uneven footing. But I trust that there is a plan, and I see it unfolding in front of me like a map, one panel visible at a time. I see how my words and my experiences are bringing others light in their darkness.
I can never go back because I am a different person. And it’s simply beautiful.
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This post is part of a series leading up to my book launch! Check back here on Tuesday for the next installment. And if you haven’t preordered my book Four Letter Words, you definitely want to do it now! You can preorder it here.