The Before and After

*Note: this post was originally drafted in December 2012.*

Sometimes you get the opportunity to live through an experience, whether personally or vicariously, that forever changes the landscape of a life. That thing that will forever set a line of demarcation of what came before and what comes after. The accident. The death. The loss. The unexpected. The conception. The opportunity. The blessings. The blessings are an easier thing to adjust to, one would think. I had not, and now I have; thanks be to God. But even the best of life shifts is still that: a shift.

The harder things are the painful adjustments, those that mark a loss or a death, a tragedy. In these moments I find myself and others seeking to regain balance, to find their previous sense of normal. “Why am I taking so long to get back to how I was before?” But, alas, normal no longer exists. But we somehow miss that. We can see someone who has lost a leg and watch them re-learn how to walk, and say, “Ah, yes, they’re finding the new reality of balance without the leg.” And in the same moment, we look at our own “after” life and think, “What’s wrong with me, that it’s not back to status quo yet?” How much more so should we give ourselves grace as we re-learn life with a lost relationship, a hole in our emotional heart, an absence at the table. There is no longer normal, there is before and after. The time that was, and the time that comes.

Some of my most treasured friends are those who have walked the darkest valleys. There is a strength and assurance that comes in walking that line between Before and After, in looking into the blackest depths and saying “You may not have me.” New arrivals to the land of After will sometimes say “Look at me! Look at me! I triumphed!” And that has it’s time. Others respond with “Why me? It’s not fair! That wasn’t right!” And that has it’s time. After a time, you settle. You balance. And you look life dead square in the eye and say You. Can’t. Scare. Me. Here I stand.

Somehow, some way, we find our way to a new truth: that there is no before or after. Maybe that’s where that final stage finds peace. Life exists with God’s grace right now. And now. And now. Those who are marked with the ‘after’ walk life differently, hold gently the things that surround us, because they know how tenuous that hold can be. Grateful for His Spirit, who brings us peace, and for His hope, which walks with us as we move forward. Grace. Breathe in. Breathe out.

May we recognize each other on the road, and share His love, and lean on each other as we share this ‘now.’


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