A few weeks ago, Daniel and I went out to dinner and got seated by a table of 20 or so kids celebrating homecoming. We sat there and just watched them for a while (not that we had much choice—we couldn’t have heard what the other person was saying above the teenage racket).
Now that we’re about two decades out from homecoming ourselves, we found the scene fascinating, like some kind of sociological study. The guys were all on one end of the table, jockeying to be the loudest or make the funniest joke. The girls were pulling out lip gloss at two-minute intervals, adjusting their teeny dresses and trying to get the attention of the guys, who had eyes only for their burgers.
After they left, Daniel and I looked at each other, slightly dazed, ears still ringing.
“So,” Daniel said finally. “If you could go back and say something to your 17-year-old self, what would you say?”
We laughed as we considered tips for our former selves:
To the former Stephanie: You know, those high-waisted, tight-rolled jeans are not really as flattering as you think they are.
To the former Daniel: Dude, you should really cut your hair.
But most of all, when I think about the 17-year-old me, I want to cup her face in my hands and say, It’s going to get better. Those things that seem to matter so much right now—the girls who are mean to you in the locker room, the boys who seem to think you’re invisible—it’s not going to matter that much someday. There is so much more to life than you can see right now, and those things that make you feel out of step with the rest of the world . . . you will recognize them as gifts one day. Yes, maybe you’ll get teased as the yearbook’s biggest bookworm, but someday you’ll get to read and write books for a living. And there’s going to be a really handsome man (he with the once-long hair) who will love you just the way God knows you need to be loved. And best of all, you’ll be comfortable in your own skin.
Last week a beautiful woman from our church was taken from us after the tumor in her brain gained too much ground. She was one of those people who was sunshine in human form—always offering warm hugs and greetings, beaming her genuine smile, making people feel loved and welcomed.
Daniel and I stood in a three-hour line at Kim’s visitation, surrounded by hundreds of other people whose lives had been touched by this woman of God. Story after story poured out about how her life had been marked by love and service—to God, to her family, to her church, and to anyone whose path she crossed.
As we looked at the photos around the room—the one of Kim with her husband’s arm around her, the one of her laughing with her children and grandchildren, the one of her hugging kids on a service trip in Ecuador—it struck me in a fresh way what really matters. I get so caught up in the things that seem urgent, the things that clamor for my attention and keep me buzzing from one item on the to-do list to the next.
I have to wonder if Kim would cup my face in her hands and say, “Things are going to get so much better. And those things that worry you, the things you think are so important? They’re not going to matter all that much one day.”
I’m not so different from those high school students, I’m afraid, so focused on the here and now. But I want to hang on to the legacy Kim leaves behind: Love God. Love people. This is what really matters.
I have no doubt that when Kim went home to her Father, she was greeted just as warmly as she’d greeted people on this side of eternity. And I’m confident these words echoed off the streets of gold: “Well done, Kim, my good and faithful servant.”
Forget the sequined dresses and the loud table talk. That’s the ultimate homecoming.