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I Can’t Ever Go Back

I can’t ever go back, I thought, as tears streamed down my face. As I looked at the struggle in the lines surrounding his charcoal eyes, I couldn’t hold it in. I tried to play it cool, occasionally wiping them away like there was just something in my eye. Yet, an ocean of sorrow and empathy swam through my heart. How am I this selfish? How do I always lose sight of who I am?

How am I this selfish? How do I always lose sight of who I am?

Life hasn’t been so hot lately. Last week I was a stressed, over-tired, frenzied mess, frantically trying to cross everything off my never-ending to-do list while concurrently making sure everyone in my atmosphere was happy and at peace. I’ve spent too much of my life that way.

The truth is, I haven’t felt like God’s been around much. I have these seasons sometimes where I just don’t feel like chasing Him anymore. It’s much easier to just exist and ignore the life God is calling me to. I see people around me that are so content with living for themselves and sometimes I wish I could go back.

We had just finished serving seconds to some beautiful people at a homeless/transitional shelter in Minneapolis: Sloppy Joe’s, corn chips, salad, M & M cookies. It was an endearing youth group provided feast. As I looked to the corner of the room, there, sitting at a table by himself not talking to anyone, was Jeff.

photo credit: 3liz4 via photopin cc

I couldn’t tell you how the conversation started; frankly, I didn’t do much of the talking. “They don’t want me there,” he told me when I asked about church. “I see the glares from the perfect suburban families, they don’t want me there. I only let myself go once in a while because I don’t want to embarrass everyone.”

“Then they came and took my car. It didn’t run anymore, but it was my home, it was all I had. The pastor said he was going to help me and take me where I belong. We got in his car and he drove me here, to this shelter. What he meant to say is ‘You don’t belong in the suburbs.’ I used to, that’s where I grew up, but not anymore. Now I don’t belong anywhere and I have nothing left, not even my bible.”

Jeff’s stories cut straight to my core (and these weren’t even the hardest ones). I was crying because I kept thinking here is Job on earth, right in front of me with every reason to be unhappy, still standing and smiling. Here I am with every reason to be ridiculously joyful and I am nothing but exhausted and lacking hope.

Here I am with every reason to be ridiculously joyful and I am nothing but exhausted and lacking hope.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. ~Matthew 16:24

Every morning when I wake up, I am thoroughly self-seeking. I have to fight to deny the selfish expectations of our consumerist culture that calls me to focus on myself and the things I don’t have. The more I’ve come to know Jesus and recklessly love Him, the more I’ve realized I can’t ever go back to not caring about people like Bill and Jeff. I can’t go back to ignoring God’s plans for my one and only life by wasting my time on things that don’t matter. I want to chase Him everyday because the life I have found with him has made me happier than I’ve ever known possible, even in the chaos.


So today I am so thankful for Jeff for reminding me who I am and why I was created: to serve others. (I mailed him a new bible and a cross necklace, I hope he likes it!) When I am struggling, when I am lacking joy and hope you can bet it’s because I haven’t been serving the world, I haven’t been living out my calling. My life changed for the better when I started measuring it by this quote:

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived. THAT IS SUCCESS. I challenge you to strive for that kind of success today. You might even be lucky enough to meet someone like Jeff. He is the true definition of strength and faith and he was the perfect reminder of why I can’t ever go back and I don’t ever want to.

It’s a long walk through this world, but stand tall, you’re one day closer to making it home.

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