Change In Plans

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When I was a (relatively) young man, my life was naively charted toward easy success; so I thought. Instead of following tried and true methods of disciplined and consistent progression, I decided to magically become the exception to the rules. I didn’t need a plan . It was just going to happen someday. In hindsight, I was lazy; smart…but lazy. When you’re young, you’re invincible and time waits for you.

I’m a bit older now, and constantly face the consequences of my youthful mistakes. I can live with that, when I’m the only one effected by choices of my past. We all owe a debt, and time will always collect because it has a long memory. But…what’s hard to swallow is when I see the choices of my past burden my family. They deserve so much more than I can give them today. While I believe everything happens for a reason, in God’s economy, sometimes it’s really hard to fight off the demons of your past when you know things might have turned out different if you’d made better choices.

Let me digress here. Right now, my family and I are sitting on top of a hill. God’s been really good to us in providing for our needs and a few wants as well. For now, the valley is behind and below us. Lately, my prayers have been specifically for God’s wisdom. The best way for me to be a great dad and husband is to follow the Lord’s guidance in all things. That takes a great deal of wisdom to avoid repeating mistakes of the past. So, with that said, I am reminded of past choices made strictly in my flesh which led to unfortunate consequences.

I see youngsters of the Millennial age making some of the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. I just want to help them do better; stop them from chasing the same rabbit I’ve pursued year before, if I can.

“Stay in school; get an education,” I want to say.

“Don’t rush into love. You’ve got plenty of time to do it the right way,” I need to warn.

“It’s perfectly okay to let people know you don’t know. You don’t always have to be right, especially when you’re wrong,” I want them to understand.

“Don’t waste your time on silly. Time is relentless and will someday run out. What you do to make a difference, with the time you have, is all that really matters.” A lot of today’s kids need to hear that message. This idea of Y.O.L.O. is a farce.

“God is real. Jesus is alive. The Holy Spirit is still working today. Don’t let anyone convince you of anything otherwise.” The world is making real progress in convincing our youth that God is for the weak-minded. Our kids need to know better. We have to teach them.

That detour took a little longer than I anticipated, but it was good to get that out because it’s what I’m feelin’ what now. So, the consequences of decisions made in the flesh have long lasting repercussions. As I grow older and (hopefully) move closer to God, I see how blind and naive choices devoid of God’s wisdom have dictated the course of my life. But God is still good, and patient with me. I realize he’s always been there for me, through every misguided decision and ridiculous choice. He never let me fall beyond a certain point.

I think that once you see his presence in your life, from past to present–and you recognize the things he’s brought you through–you have a change in perspective. Maybe, you even have a change in plans. What once seemed so clear for insane reasons, now appears exactly how it is and was from the beginning: crazy. And what once seemed boring and square, is now the only path you really want to be on, because it’s truth.

 

*always*

Yesterday, Now

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Every once in awhile, I get the chance to see a glimpse of my past through the eyes of someone else. Sometimes, I receive messages from longtime friends and past acquaintances who remind me of times gone by-some good; some bad. I tend to throw the bad memories into my mental box labeled, “Don’t Ever Open Again”. But the good memories give me hope. They let me know that I wasn’t a total schmuck before God saved me.

Today was one of those good-memory days.

When I was a freshman in college, at Western Michigan University, I developed some pretty awesome relationships with friends of different backgrounds. In fact, some of those relationships still remain today. Doug, Dante, Al, D-Pounce, Jeff and Reddick took me into their little group of King High School/ Flintstone bandits as if I had always belonged. A band of brothers. And then there was my crazy, naive and genuinely good-hearted suitemate: Andy.

Andy was hilarious. He was the kind of white guy who obviously came from a town where black folks were either absent or shunned, but Andy didn’t allow fear of the unknown to stunt his growth. No sir. This guy used his natural curiosity to befriend us and learn about our culture. I can remember our talks as if they happened yesterday.

Andy would ask questions with a look of childlike wonderment in his eyes. He never once offended me with his open and honest questions. Rather, I actually saw him as someone who wanted to learn who I was; not just Ennis Smith from Ecorse, Michigan, but Ennis Smith-the black man, from Ecorse, Michigan.

Andy asked about my background. He asked why the black race seemed to be portrayed in a negative light through the media of the day. He wanted to know thoughts on our choices in dating. He wanted to know what it was to be as close to “black” as he could possibly get.

Now, I remember a few of my friends blowing over his questions and curiosities as foolishness, maybe even stupidity. But, I saw what they didn’t see. He was just a guy who didn’t look like us, but who actually wanted to understand our culture. Andy was about as non-racist as you can get. He was my friend, and we had good laughs and great conversation.

I was 18 when we met. Somewhere between 19 and 21 – I honestly don’t remember, because the alcohol changed me – I lost touch with my friend. Today, I got an unexpected and pleasant surprise via Twitter. My old friend had tracked me down. Imagine my surprise in finding out that he was not only a fellow writer, but a writer who regularly takes on the subject of race and relationships as an anti-racism activist!

Andy wrote a post in which he referred back to one of our many conversations on race. It completely blew my mind that our talks would have such a lasting impact on someone! For some reason, he felt the need to apologize for any uncompassionate (my words, not his) things he made have said. But, in all honesty, I remember that one particular conversation being awesome.

And there it is folks: God’s work transcending time. Even before I was straight with the Lord, he was working on a friend,and I, refining us both; shaping us into the people we would someday become. I wonder if my friend would be proud of the man I’ve become today? I sure am proud of what he’s doing with his life, using his voice, spoken and written, to attack one of Satan’s greatest tools: racism. I am 42 today. And it would seem that my Lord saw fit to bring my old friend back into my life. My yesterday took a pause, and decided to pick up again, now.

Be kind to one another, friends. You never know when something you might say or do might change the course of another’s life. You can never tell if your actions might speak life into a relationship, or strife between two people.