Saturday, May 7, 2016

Before and After

It is spring....which means trees blooming, baby animals appearing, warmer and wetter weather, and before and after pictures.  Before and after pictures?  Ah yes, the weight loss season.  We have to get our flabby, winter bodies ready for swimsuit season.  No matter how one has treated their body during winter, the hope comes every spring that our bodies will be ready to wear that cute, new swimsuit.  So we are inundated with the weight loss advertisement's use of before and after pictures.  

I have been thinking a lot lately about "before and after."  We all have "before and after" stories; maybe it is of weight loss or a healthier lifestyle, but it may also be about more serious issues we deal with in life.  This concept of "before and after" hit me recently as I read a quote from a book I am reading.  The book is "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt.  As of this writing, I have not finished the book.  I think I will, but the book has taken some understandably gritty paths and I was, at one point, tempted to walk away from the book.  However, at some level, I could see myself walking down the paths that the main character has traveled, if I had not experienced the "before and after" of my story.

The main character is talking about the sudden and traumatic death of his mother when he was a teenager:  "As it was, she died when I was a kid; and though everything that's happened to me since then is thoroughly my own fault, still when I lost her I lost sight of any landmark that might have led me someplace happier, to some more populated or congenial life.  Her death the dividing mark:  Before and After."  This quote stopped me in my tracks.  It was as if the author was talking about my experience with the death of my mom.  If you know my story, there were years after my mom's death in which I made poor choices with my life and went down roads that were not healthy for me.  I had lost my landmark.

Landmark is defined by as a prominent or conspicuous object on land that serves as a guide and something used to mark the boundary of land.  When my mom died, I was 15 years old and even though I was at an age where I was learning who I was apart from my parents, my mom still was definitely my landmark.  She marked my boundaries, she was my guide.  When she suddenly died, I lost sight of where it was that I should go; my boundaries were gone.  Although she had given me the tradition of faith (I grew up in a Methodist home), I had not internalized that faith and did not use it as a landmark in my life.

I thank God that He gave me another "Before and After."  It was years later that He led my husband and I to a church where we both found a solid landmark - Jesus.  It was not until I allowed Jesus to change my life, to take control of my life, and to use Him as my landmark that my life turned around.  I now understand that another person cannot serve as my landmark - it can only be Jesus.  People will fail you, they will leave you, and it is not healthy to rely heavily on another person as your landmark.  In my experience, once that landmark is gone,  you are lost, adrift, trying to find something else to fill that role in your life.  

It is because of my "Before and After" stories that I do not desire to be my children's landmark.  I want to love them well, be there for them, listen to them, guide and coach them, discipline them, enjoy them - but I want to point them to the landmark that never, ever moves or leaves them.  So on this Mother's Day Eve, I would challenge you to ask yourself two questions: (1) what or who is your landmark? and (2) What landmark are you pointing your children to?

Psalm 89:47English Standard Version (ESV)

47 Remember how short my time is!
    For what vanity you have created all the children of man!