Joni Mitchell’s Help Me I Think I’m Falling in Love Again brings me right to the front seat of my Mom’s car and I’m four.
America’s Sister Golden Hair and I’m five and with my Dad.
When Doves Cry and I’m thirteen at a sleepover.
Love Will Find a Way and I’m falling in love with Amy Grant and her music as a new believer at fifteen.

I bet we all have songs like this that instantly transport us. I had that experience unexpectedly in church this weekend. With zero warning, Better is One Day in Your Courts and it’s the year 2000 and I’m thirty and I’m driving myself to a day of solitude at a friend’s cabin. This song played over and over the entire hour-long ride, my throat raw from singing along.

Though I could pull that exact journal out of my hope chest, I don’t need to. I know exactly what I was praying through that day.

Our ministry year would’ve been starting soon, and I had an itinerary of planned events and an amazing team of women I was leading who I wanted to love well and serve sacrificially.

My children would’ve been 4 and 2, and you’d better believe I would’ve been praying for their precious hearts and lives and every single detail that momma’s heart could think of.

But I know what the main thing would’ve been, what my heart would have been brimming with…thoughts of my already very-painful and sadly-so-deeply-broken marriage, filled with things I did not know what to do about as a thirty-year-old trying-to-follow-Jesus still-little-girl kinda wife.

Being transferred instantly back to thirty through that song brought an immediate sadness, I must admit. Nothing I prayed for came to pass, I actually thought. Those prayers for my marriage on that retreat day were for nothing.

But no. That’s not how it all works.

There is a person I am no longer in relationship with, and this person characterized the time we were in relationship, basically, as a waste.

That’s not at all how I see it.

Just because a relationship comes to an end does not mean the good that happened between the people during the relationship was for nothing.

Every good and loving thing between you two built the Kingdom, every prayer softened your heart (and maybe theirs a bit too), every kind word spoken was healing (even if just to your own self), every harsh word withheld was growth.

And it didn’t go away just because the relationship came to a close. It all mattered and it all matters. Nothing is ever a waste.

I want to make sure not to hurt anyone here, so let’s be clear that if you were abused, I’m NOT saying that was a good thing. In any way, shape or form.

But if you grew in any way, good came from it. If you have kids from that ended relationship, amazing gifts.

Maybe think of it not being a waste in these ways: more so along the lines of “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (from Joel 2:25) along with what the enemy meant for harm, God means for good, and beauty from ashes, and God is in every relationship that a Christ-follower is in.

You know, most human beings’ stories are not up and to the right from day one.

In fact, MOST of us fail, take the quote-unquote wrong path, make mistakes and poor choices, take too long to take action, suffer missteps, suffer from other people derailing us.

Some of mine:
I didn’t get into my first choice of colleges.
My first engagement was broken, as was my heart.
I stopped halfway through my Master’s degree. (And never finished it.)
I married out of a place of brokenness.
My first manuscript was rejected fifty-two times.
I didn’t stand up for myself for a very long time.
I didn’t get the help we needed soon enough.
I let my rage be the backdrop of my children’s childhoods.
I got a divorce.

And I could go on and on…(these were just off the top of my head!)

But each thing brought me to the next thing.
None of those things were a waste.
None of those things discount what preceded or followed.
And it’s amazing how God uses each thing to shape us.

There is no “where I’m supposed to be” for your age or season of life. (So there’s no point in comparing.)

You are where you are. And it’s more than okay. It was all for something, not nothing. It all mattered.

And if you’re walking with Jesus, keep walking. Keep walking as closely as you can.

And he will keep leading.
And he will get you to where he’s taking you.

And the next time a song transports you back…let it. Sit with it. Even if it’s a bit painful. And thank God for what he brought you through and any gifts that came from it.

My heart and flesh cry out for You the living God
Your Spirit’s water for my soul
I’ve tasted and I’ve seen, come once again to me
I will draw near to You I will draw near to You… To You

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. -Philippians 1:6


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