Every now and again I like to stop and remember back to where I was (and who I was) in a different season. I often do it like this: today is 5 April 2012. The fifth day of April is my sister Jennifer’s birthday. (Happy Birthday, Jennie!) Where and who was I on the fifth day of April a few years ago?
Well, on 5 April 2008 I was on a non-stop flight from Hong Kong to New York. I was sitting next to Stephanie Whitmore, who is now married and has a new name. We literally talked for five straight hours without realizing how much time had passed. If you’d have told me that day that just six months from then I’d be at Stephanie’s wedding and seeing the last of her for the next three and a half years, I’d not have believed you. If you had told me that I was really just six months away from not only the end of my friendship with Stephanie but was also going to launch heavily into a new phase of a terribly complicated and drawn-out self-sabotage cycle that would completely wreck my life and decimate my communities and relationships, I’d not have believed you.
But it’d be the truth.
I look back to that 23 year old Ethan, sitting on that plane, and think of all the terrible mistakes he’d already made. Then I think of how they all pale in comparison to the terrible mistakes he’s about to make in the next year and a half of his life. He’s literally going to destroy, systematically, every relationship he has in his life through his lies, his deceit, and his monstrous self-centeredness.
He’s going to find himself, within just a few short years, heartbroken and humbled at his terrible sins.
But then I think on who that Ethan was, really, and what he knew and believed. Suddenly the desire to be able to go back and keep him from making all those terrible mistakes vanishes, because if I did that then *I* would vanish. At 23 years old, I was sure that I was gay, but I really had no idea what that meant, and there was a big part of me that was still very concerned about being sent to hell for it. At 23 I was still very much naive about life and the consequences of my actions and decisions. At 23 I just couldn’t comprehend being 27 and knowing what I know, having experienced and learned what I have experienced and learned. It may have been learned through terrible hardship and with a wretched cost, but the experiences and lessons are so worth the price paid that I daren’t imagine a me without them now.
And it strikes me that even though I know that my 23 year old self, sitting on that airplane, isn’t aware that his biggest regrets and most shameful betrayals are still ahead of him… well, I know that he’s going to make it through that okay. Papa’s going to look out for him, forgive him, grant him grace, and provide for him. Papa’s got a plan for him that will bring about growth, reconciliation, and peace. That kid’s gonna go through hell from 2008 on, but by 5 April 2012 he’ll sure have learned a lot about life, love, and the Father.
And when I think on that, suddenly all my problems and my worries about the future and my current circumstances seem… completely manageable. Because I’m sure that on 5 April 2016 I’ll be looking back at my 27 year old self and saying much the same thing I’ve said about me at 23 years of age.
And I’ll know then, at 31, that Papa already had his hand on me, and worked to faithfully and lovingly take me further up and further in. Can’t say that I have any clue what that will look like, but I certainly believe that it’ll be true.
In short… God’s big enough for my life.
And thank goodness he is.