five years ago, today
Five years ago today, I was getting ready to start my sophomore year of high school, I looked something like the photo above (tgod for orthodontia), and jammed to Taylor Swift’s teen angst fueled anthem “Fifteen” as often as I could. I obsessively refined my lacrosse stickhandling in our alleyway, loved practicing my driving skills, watched way too much Gossip Girl, and had just returned from summer camp with a curiosity about Jesus and a sense of wonder about what life with him could look like.
Five years ago today, the Michigan sun rose on an average summer Tuesday and by the time it had set, my life was completely flipped on its head. It was the day I finished my summer reading book. It was the day we had hotdogs and lemonade for lunch, and it was the day my dad was struck by a car and killed while riding his bike in a sudden thunderstorm.
Five years ago today was one of those days that will hold a place in my memory as stake in the ground, marking each moment of my life with a time stamp. In a chronological sorting of events, my memories are organized into two categories: “before” or “after I lost my dad." On that rainy August day, God took my life – my fractured belief about who he was, my plans, my understanding of the world, and my sophomoric sense of self – and shattered it into a million pieces. Although it hurt, God never left my side. Instead, he looked with gentleness at my fractured world laying on the floor around him and knelt to pick them up; with patience and grace he began to rebuild me for good.
A few days ago, I was up at the lake with a dear friend of mine on another August Tuesday, much like that one five years ago. It had been raining on and off all day, and we passed the time by drinking coffee and journaling, baking blueberry cobbler, and reading on the screened in porch. When the rain seemed like it would finally keep off for good, we jumped at the opportunity to play outside and hopped on our bikes for a quick ride around the neighborhood. As we chatted while riding along, it started to drizzle. Disappointed at the untimely weather, I proposed that we head back when the drizzle turned into a full-on downpour. We giggled at how wet we were getting while wiping the rain from our eyes, and instead of turning around we decided to pedal it out until the rain let up. We howled with laughter as we dipped and curved around the cul-de-sacs at the end of my street; the wet concrete reflecting an image of two-wheeled joyful abandon.
As I zoomed faster and faster around the looped streets my mind began to wander, and I thought of that bike ride five years ago when my dad got caught in the rain on this same road and never came home. I wondered if he felt as free and joyful as us in his final moments - pedaling through the rain throwing conventional caution to the wind. I remembered his playful spirit and smiled at the moments of joy we had shared as I grew up. I thought about the creativity of God: how he has used both rain and bikes to heal me in the past five years, weaving them so masterfully into significant moments in my walk with him. Lastly, I thought of all the unexpected ways my life has changed since that rainy day in August. I smiled as I pedaled, realizing that many of the people who have changed me, the places that I have called home, and the lessons that I have learned about being a good human could never have entered my life in any other way.
Five years later, I can look back at that day as a beginning, not an end. God tells us that he will use all things – especially our suffering – for the good of those who love him. These past years haven’t been easy. I’ll always carry remnants of a hole that only a father’s love can fill, and a craving for the familiarity that came when there were six chairs at the dinner table. Yet still, hidden in those years have been priceless moments of growth, healing, and family transformation that I wouldn’t trade for the world. God doesn’t promise us that life with him will be easy, but he promises good. Five years ago today, I would’ve chosen easy. I wanted a life that was comfortable and clean, that I could plan and control, but God knew before I even spoke a word that he created me for something different. He made me for a life of messy faith, of being broken and rebuilt, of rediscovering his grace each day and looking at the world with childlike wonder. He created me to be continually surprised by joy – to find it in every nook and cranny of this world, especially in the places that seem dead and broken. He created me to bike hard in the pouring rain, to laugh at his creativity, and lean into the messy life that he calls us to.
Five years is a long time to miss someone, but I am thankful for a God that always promises good.