My life today looks drastically different than it did 5 years ago. I don't mean in the sense of growing older and the natural progression of life and circumstances. I'm talking about huge, radical changes—like living on a different continent with a new future after the old one disappeared like a shaken up Etch-a-Sketch drawing. The enormous chasm of a three-year hell has left my life unavoidably split into Before and After.
Swallowed up in The Chasm is a pile of hopes and dreams, a life I once lived, and relationships lost. And part of my new After life is a grief that will always linger close. Grief not only for what was lost and what will never be, but also for the bankruptcy of those who've known me on both sides of The Chasm. So many people in my life now didn't know me "back then". They only know my now-stories (however few and far between) of life in Africa, as a wife, as a missionary.
I miss being known wholly.
My past, my journey, my loves and losses and joys and sorrows—all of it—are still the fabric of who I am, regardless of how different I may be in my After life. Even when it's hard for me to see it. The shortage of others who can recognize that as well somehow makes it easier for me to forget.
I got an unexpected note from an old friend recently. She was, like me, a ministry Founder, pouring her heart and soul into the soil of hearts in Southern Africa. She, unlike me, still is. And she sent me a message out of the blue that basically said, "I still see you. You still matter to me. I believe in you and am proud of you. And your life still has value and purpose, though different."
Reading it, the tears flowed.
She knew me in my Before life—young me, back when my eyes were filled with passion and vision and fire.
She knew that me—the me I now feel such a fraction of. And, with written words and photographs, she has followed my journey through The Chasm into my After, and she still sees me despite all the differences. She sees congruencies where I see only contrasts.
Reading it again, the tears washed away some of the blur.
With fresh eyes, I can now see that my life is not Before then After. It is Before and After.
Once again, I am forced to live in the tension of the ampersand. Not one or the other, but both. I am the sum total of it all, even here and now in my very much After life.
The same is true for you—no matter what your journey has held, how your story has played out, or how deep The Chasm has been. You are not the product of one isolated portion of it. You are the grand, courageous, magnificent, formidable total of it all.
That "and" means you and I are stronger than we think.