I’ve been blessed by a great friend, a somewhat new friend. She is someone that people fall in love with the moment they meet her because her heart is SO big. You know the kind of person I’m talking about, right? Someone you want to be around because they exude joy and love and encouragement and a million other positive feelings. The kind of person that makes you want to be better. I love her dearly. Which is why it hurts me to see her struggling right now. So I pray for her. Now. Later. All the time.
She said something the other day that made me feel like I understand her on a new level. She said something to the effect of “When this is all over, maybe you will know the real me.” And ¡bam! a ton of memories hit me like a brick! Not too many years ago, I was saying basically the same words. Actually “saying” is too mild of a word, it was more like sobbing them from deep within my broken heart.
In January of 2006 I got on a plane and moved across the world to Thailand where I didn’t know a single person. Sure I was terrified but mostly I was excited and filled to the brim with hopes and dreams for a new adventure. I had no clue where life was going to take me but I was ready to give 100% of myself and I had no doubt that I was going to change the world.
Three weeks later my sister Tiffany died. Six to twelve months went by in a blur and somewhere in the haze I lost my hope. I lost myself. I spent the next couple years living just to get by. I was still living in Thailand and working in ministry but I wasn’t myself. And I came to a point where, more than anything, I was grieving for the lost me. No one in my daily life here in Thailand had ever known the real Jen. They only knew the broken Jen, the sad Jen, the lost Jen who only had a little bit to give. And I so badly wanted them to know that other person, the Jen who had no doubt that she was a world changer.
It is confusing to grieve for someone who isn’t really gone, especially when that someone is you. I could look back and remember when I used to laugh and make others laugh, when I could sing and love and share boldly. I tried so hard to grab ahold of the old me but no matter how far I stretched, I was always just out of reach.
And then one day a friend asked me how I was doing and I completely broke down. I laid on the floor sobbing, trying to convince this person that if she had known the old me, she would have loved me so much.The old me would have accomplished so much more, the old me could have changed a thousand worlds. I asked God why He would bring me all the way to Thailand and allow me to have such big dreams, only to let them break into tiny little pieces as soon as I got here. I didn’t understand any of it and I was tired. Totally and completely tired of it all.
That day was a turning point for me. I didn’t realize it then but it was on that day that I let go of the old me. I wasn’t quite ready for the new me yet but just the process of letting go opened up so much room in my heart for new hopes and new dreams. I’ve been on a journey since then that has included counseling, setting boundaries, learning, stretching, growing, breaking and a lot more tears. But it has also included laughing, singing, loving, sharing and maybe even a little bit of dancing.
Occasionally I look back and desire the old Jen again but those longings are getting fewer and farther in between. The new me is more loving and stronger in every way that I can imagine. It’s also more sensitive and emotional (good and bad). I’m about as far from perfect as they come but the important thing is that I’m me.
And the kicker is that I like the new me better than the old me and I wouldn’t change a moment of this journey over the past six years. The lessons that I’ve learned about myself, the world and the amazing God I serve are worth every tear I cried along the way. I thank God on a daily basis for bringing me all the way across the world in order to shape me and show me who I am.
So I pray for my friend and trust that through the pain she is experiencing, God is molding her into a new person.
And friend, if you are reading this, know that I see who you really are. I see past your pain and your circumstances to a heart that God is so proud to call His own. You are loved.