The Wrong Future

[a short story]

PART 1

I feel like my story should start with a deep quote about time.

Rather, it starts with the words “I wish I’d never met you.”

I think after that should follow a deep reflection.

Unfortunately what followed was “I know, darling.”

I am the 32nd licensed time traveller of my day [the Lord knows how many unlicensed ones are out there]. I make ludicrous amounts of money going back in time and changing small mistakes or travelling to the future to see how investments work out, what happens to the next child superstar, what a woman will say when she’s proposed to. Humanity avoids risks by paying a few of us to take large ones regularly. And yet I couldn’t even avoid the disaster of my own marriage.

And so the story goes that when I asked her what I could do to fix everything, she says, “go back to that day-” and we both know exactly which day she means- ” and tell me not to go to work the next day.”

So I went.

I see her from across the room, over the tops of twenty something cubicles, typing away on an old fashioned desktop PC. She has her hair swept up in a bun and her cheeks crinkle as she laughs at something a coworker has said, in lines that aren’t permanent yet. Her eyes glisten in the sunlight, a clear ice blue without glasses to shield them. She isn’t wearing make up but her face is rosy and her lips are pink and she takes my breath away as I know she would have the next day when she walked into my cafe for the first time.

It’s almost impossible to break the spell and walk over but I do, before I’ve even thought of a proper way to introduce myself.

“Hello,” I say.

She looks me in the eye and sweeps a stray piece of hair out her eyes, something she is yet to do a million times in front of me, when she’s distracted.

“Hey,” she replies and smiles. Her lack of familiarity catches me off guard for a second.

I decide to go with the company protocol- my name, a piece of information to establish authenticity and finally, my mission.

“My name is Andrew, although in the future you will come to call me Sourpuss-” here she laughs, and it sounds like melted honey and butter, and I almost turn around and run as fast and far as I can- “and I’m here to tell you not to go to work tomorrow.”

“I used to call my-”

“Your dad Sourpuss, I know. You used to… well, you would have said I have a lot in common with him.”

She smiled again, a dimple forming in her cheek. She smells like lemons and the mints she used to religiously keep in her handbag, back when she was working for that promotion.

“I’ve heard about you people,” she says, standing up to meet my eye more easily. One day she will spill wine on the collar of this shirt. “Well, yea, if it’s my destiny I’ll chuck a sickie.”

Her destiny, I think. Of course. Her destiny is to be happy.

“Sure, right, well, I’ll be off then,” I say, shaking her hand. Her touch still sends shivers up my arm.

As I turn to leave, she says “yea, bye Andy.”

I freeze.

She hasn’t called me that in years.

And I suppose now she never will again.

PART 2

It’s freezing out and my coat is just thin enough to leave me sweaty under the armpits but shivering. I wish I’d shaved before I left the house, I think as I catch my reflection in a shop window. I wish I’d have combed my hair and cut my nails and gotten three hours more sleep, but it’s too late now.

There isn’t room in my tiny flat for anything much more than a bed, toilet, stove and sink. When I got back, of course our house wasn’t there because we hadn’t bought it. Every pot and pan she had bought was gone, and on short notice all the money in the world couldn’t get me much more than a one bedroom on the top floor on short notice. Even though it’s been roughly six months since I returned to the day we would have had the catalytic fight, I haven’t bothered to look for anything more. My clothes are falling apart because she used to get me a shirt every Christmas and her parents would buy me a pair of socks or tie. I don’t even get photos because no one remembers any were taken apart from me. Such is the struggle of being a time traveller- you collect memories and see possibilities that no one will ever know.

I hurry to the bus stop and huddle in the corner as I wait for transport that is already twenty minutes late. Today I’m meeting a new client who wants to see how much money their father leaves them in his will. They’re not close at the moment, and they want to know how hard to try. The obvious answer is that if they have to ask, they probably won’t get much, but a job’s a job. The rain is pouring down in sheets and I can barely see the approaching headlights of my bus before it’s almost passed. I wave my wallet in front of the reader and look for a place to sit before I see her.

The bus swings into motion before I have a chance to sit, so I helplessly swing into the seat opposite her.

“You.” She says, her mind searching for the source of recognition.

“Me.” I reply, not meeting her eye.

“You were the one who told me to miss work.”

Her hair is pulled into a tight bun at the nape of her neck and she is wearing a sharply cut suit. She must have made her promotion by now. Her nails are manicured and she has this handbag she wanted for a long time but convinced herself she couldn’t afford. Apparently she can afford it while not waiting for me to finish my time training. She is still beautiful but there is a coldness, a sense of being put together that she didn’t have when I knew her. She probably has a planner in that bag.

“I am,” I finally reply.

“You’ve got to thank whoever employed you to do that,” she says, her lips curling into some semblance of a smile I’ve never seen the likes of. I guess it’s the smile of success. “Two weeks later, there was this huge stuff up at work and they went back to check the records, swept through the whole place sacking people who were responsible. I was on the team, but I wasn’t there that day. In fact, I was instrumental in putting it all back together and soon after, they promoted me. I haven’t stopped climbing that ladder since.”

That’s not how it’s meant to happen. She’s meant to be part of that team and fight to keep her friends in work. She fixes it without sacrificing her mates. Of course, I’m trained not to reveal alternates, so I just smile, nod, and look at the ground.

“I’ll be sure to let them know,” I tell her and get off the bus when it stops.

I’m about an hour away from my destination, so I slump at the bus stop and weep until the next bus comes.

PART 3

“You can’t put that there,” I say to my spotty intern with a fern in his shaking hands. I take it from him before he drops it out of nerves.

I own my own company now, with a couple of people under me. I honestly didn’t see this in my future. [It’s recommended you don’t check your own status. Apparently it’s been known to drive time travellers insane. It also drives your insurance premiums up.] We work on making time travelling more comfortable for your average man. Wouldn’t you prefer to arrive in your time with the clothes already tailored and in your bag? Wouldn’t it be good to have a handbook on the culture and politics you’ll be arriving in? I work on helping the people who change the world every day. Of course, the recognition goes to the people who secretly employed them and took their tips- prime ministers who checked future trends before writing their mission statements and chain restaurants who explored the future acceptance of possible locations before spending their millions to make billions.

I heard the first time traveller wanted to see how humanity develops, stop world wars and provide for the poor before they were even born. But this is where we are.

I put the pot plant down on the windowsill and smile at the small cafe across the road.

The day she was meant to walk in was going to be our last day. We had balloons tied to the doors and a huge sign in the window. She walks in and says “I always meant to try this place.”

I say, “if there were more people like you, maybe we wouldn’t be closing.”

I hand her a coffee, she takes a sip, and she says “it’s definitely a shame you are.”

I reply, “I make coffee just as good wherever I am. This doesn’t have to be your last.”

She asks for my number so she can give me a call next time she wants one.

She calls me the next morning.

I make her coffee for the next ten years.

That’s how it was once upon a time, anyway. I’m glad to see they still serve coffee though. Some things never change.

I realise it’s past lunch time, so I decide to go and grab a sandwich. On the way out I see my reflection in the glass doors of the building I now own. It’s different to that of three years ago- my face is clean and my suit is dry cleaned. My shoes shine in the sunlight and my hair is slicked back to a fashionable extent. I practically skip into the cafe, and head straight for the line leading to the till, staring into the display at the array of options.

When I get to the front, I look up for the first time and she’s behind the register.

She is wearing make up, but it doesn’t make up for much. I can see the bluish circles under her eyes patchily concealed, and her bright lipstick attempts to draw away from a face that is filled with darkness. Her hair is forced into a clip to keep it out of her eyes and her nails are painted but chipped and bitten.

“Hi,” I say quietly.

“Hello sir, what can I get you today?”

Her tone hurts for a second before I remember she probably has no idea who I am. I try to remember what sandwich I wanted but it takes long enough for the woman behind me to tap my shoulder and tell me she’s in a hurry so I step to the side and take a seat at a small table.

Her apron is dirty and her shoulders sag- she is nothing like the woman I left on that bus or the woman I married in another life. She looks broken, and I can’t help but hurt for her. She doesn’t have those smile lines that were destined for her eyes, only the harsh pattern of a crumpled brow.

Before I realise it, the sun has gone down and everyone has gone home. She comes over to where I have been sitting for what must have been hours, even though I can’t remember much of it. I’ve been watching her for most of it, not even having ordered. She smells like baked goods, and coffee. She should smell like lemons and chamomile- she was drinking a cup before bed every night by now. I try to shake my head clear of memories from a non-existent past.

“You’re the time traveller, from before.”

“I am.”

“Well, things didn’t work out so well for me in the end I guess.”

“I guess.”

She laughs. “Oh, gee thanks sourpuss.”

I flinch.

After a pause, I ask, “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

“I think, in the end, they just realised I wasn’t the right person for the job.”

That’s not meant to happen, I think.

“I see,” I say. “And relationship wise?”

She looks at me curiously but in the end shrugs and says, “there never really was anyone. At one point, I had a bit of a fling with someone at work.”

Her boss. He always had a thing for her.

She never even looked at him twice, I protest.

Yea, because she was with me, my mind recognises.

I should have been there.

“And what about you?”

“Oh, I run the company across the road now.”

“I meant relationship wise,” she says with a shy smile.

“Oh, ah, no, nothing really… stuck.”

We look at each other for a while. She will never know how much every date I considered felt like I was cheating on my wife. Especially since technically, I have never been married. I don’t wear a ring but I still sleep on the left side of the bed. I celebrate anniversaries alone and visit old date haunts by myself, and still stop in the shops when I see something I know she would have loved for her birthday.

Something breaks the silence-a car honking outside, or a dog barking- and she sighs. “I’m really sorry, but I’m going to have to lock up soon.”

I nod and slowly stand to leave. I can’t stop staring- how did she get that scar on her arm, and when did her hair start to grey?

As I reach the door, I feel a light hand on my arm.

“Could you… is it possible to tell me who sent you, all those years back?”

I turn to look at her. Is it against privacy to tell someone that they sent me themselves?

I take a deep breath and say, “well, it was you.”

Her face falls. “Why?”

“Because the next day you would have met me.”

Her face crumples. “So?”

“We get married, and we don’t live happily ever after.”

She begins to cry. “So?”

I pull her into me and wrap my arms around her shaking shoulders. Her head automatically fits into the curve of my neck. “It guess it just wasn’t working out.”

We stand there for a little bit until I can hear her start to breathe regularly again. I stand back.

She looks at me with such sadness I take her hand and we sit down together.

“I wish I had met you,” she says.

“I know, darling.”

There’s a pause, and I finally decide to ask.

“What can I do to fix everything?”

“Go back to that day-” and we both know exactly which day she means- ” and tell me to go to work the next day.”

So I went.

PART 4

So when we inevitably have that fight again, all those years later, and I’m dropped in the moment after I left, with her standing there, in our house, with years of shirts in the cupboard and socks in the drawer, I walk over and kiss her. I don’t know when the last time is she was kissed like that by me, but for me it feels like years. In a way, it has been.

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What if?

I feel like the world is trying to live in a paradox.

One where everybody wants to be loved for who they are, but only love certain parts of themselves. One where people are hurt when they are not accepted, but do not accept others. One where we are all striving for something- we may not be sure what it is, but we’ll know when we get there.

There seems to be a lack of satisfaction within my generation. On social media, we make fun of ourselves for how self deprecating we are, posting about our insatiable desire for validation in an attempt to gain some “likes”. The irony of it is not lost on me. Perhaps this resounds throughout history, but the sound of it is just getting louder.

That we would present ourselves to society and expect everyone to accept us does not seem possible. Surely, in a world full of unique individuals, it would stand to reason that you cannot expect 100% of the population to agree on anything, including [but by no means limited to] your fashion statement, sexuality or religious beliefs. Furthermore, this seems like such an impossibility to me because we are bound by a tendency to not even completely accept ourselves. Take, for instance, in dating. One partner would have it that they are loved completely and wholly, mistakes and quirks included. That when they are irritated, it is for a reason and that is understood and absorbed by their significant other. When they indulge in bad habits, it is taken with a pinch of salt as it’s just “who they are”. And yet, there are things about us that, no matter how much we try, we cannot love. Memories that lurk, regrets woven into our personality, a temptation to be what we are tired of fighting. And yet, when we are rejected, even be it by one person in a sea of admirers, we take it to heart, and moan that no one truly understands.

And what about tolerance?

That what I say is the truth and what you have to say is a combination of your upbringing, background and probably some misunderstanding. Deep down, it makes me feel better to think you’re a little bit foolish for thinking in such a way. And of course we can’t discuss or explore our differences on the off chance someone will say something even remotely challenging, because that wouldn’t be… tolerating me. That might hurt. That might take some time and energy to understand. And I would rather not, thank you.

What about this sense that the world is not right? That we may never be able to make it right, what with all the violence and pain and hungry and global warming, for heaven’s sake, on top of all that. And we just don’t know how to fix it, but we know we have to so we’d better buy recycled toilet paper and give a dollar to the Salvo’s man.

I will here suggest something that will seem impossible.

Just as impossible as being accepted.

Just as impossible as everyone being tolerating.

Just as impossible as saving the world.

That there has been an answer all along.

What if there was someone who knew all of your flaws before you’d even really met them, and loved you completely? Loved you enough that, despite knowing everything you are ashamed of and afraid of, they died for you? Someone to fulfil your greatest desire of knowing that all the pieces of you weren’t to be displayed or hidden, but were puzzle pieces that form a beautiful picture.

What if there was an ultimate truth? Some people fight over what it may be, some people argue it doesn’t exist. But what if it did? And it was all mapped out, by someone who knew what they were doing? And it sort of just… felt right? A list of directions, so to speak, that you’d always been trying to follow, to a point, all laid out for you. A list of directions you could point others to. You always knew eggs, sugar and milk went together but now you’ve found a precise recipe.

And, what if there was a point?. A way to fix everything? And someone who was willing to do it, save the world? To make things right and beautiful again?

Maybe there is.

I believe there is.

I believe it’s Christ who loves you, Christianity which directs you, and God who is going to save the world.

And if you disagree with me, that’s fine. Just tolerate my opinions.

My Mum

MWhen I was two years old, my mum had a heart attack. I didn’t know what that meant, and I don’t remember much of it, apart from dad sitting on the edge of my bed. I’ve decided to start here because maybe this is the first tangible memory I have of realising something was wrong with my mum.

When I was in primary school, mum got a shopping scooter. A big red one with a flag on the back, and a box which I could put my backpack in when she picked me up from school. When I was young enough, I would sit on the seat with her, wedged between her legs and sometimes even allowed to steer. As I got older, I eventually started to walk beside her or race a scooter which could go a maximum of 10km per hour. There was nothing about this which was odd to me. She was just mum, with her scooter and lopsided walk, who liked to cook and sing in the kitchen and dyed her hair red even though it must have originally been brown, like mine.

In year 2, two girls asked me why my mum walked funny. People also used to ask why she talked funny, but one of the girls had a Chinese family so I knew she wouldn’t go there. Something about this, the singling out of my mum from all the other mums as odd, stung and I began to cry. The teacher took me outside, told me to calm down, and left me leaning against the green wooden railing, trying to catch my breath. I didn’t cry for a while after that.

I don’t know if I realised how much I envied other kids growing up. Mums who would take them shopping or could easily converse about boys and troubles. But I do know that, the older I grew, the less that envy was. Because I realised I had a mum who loved me, and I knew that for certain. Surely that was something to be envied by others. I had a mum who thought she’d never have kids, and who rejoiced to get married and find out she was pregnant. I had a mum who was overjoyed just to see me healthy, my strong legs and chubbiness as a kid. I had a mum who thought I was beautiful on days I didn’t. I had a mum who was and is ferociously protective of someone precious to her. I have a mum who loves me.

My mum contracted polio as a three month old in Indonesia. As an adult, I ache at the unfairness of this. That she is disabled due to a virus that, somewhere in the world, was already being cured. That she can’t have any more children due to the risk of it when she loves kids. That the kids she loves so much stare at her in the street. I wept as she explained for the first time last year she struggled to hold me for a year after I was born, her body torn apart from the pregnancy. But recently, as she’s moved from a shopping scooter to a wheelchair, I’ve learned to put aside the pain and just love my mum back, as best I know how.

Rest

“Hey”, she said, gently leaning on the railing. He looked up surprised. It was freezing cold and his hands were blue. “Hey,” he responded.

“How are you?” she asked, consciously looking out to sea instead of meeting his gaze.

“Oh, I’ve seen better days,” he responded with a smile, taking a step back so he could see her face more clearly.

She smiled. “Well, you see,” she said, looking down to examine the pattern on her gloves, “it’s my first time here in California.”

“Oh?” He raised an eyebrow and a sly grin began to spread on his face. She watched his grip tighten and released a breath that had been stuck since she had initially noticed him.

“Yea,” she continued, reaching out to grab his shoulder “and not to kill your buzz,” her grip tightened, “but it would really ruin it for me if you jumped.”
No, I don’t really know how I came to be in San Francisco. I mean, like most people, I had a plan for the next couple of years- uni, settling down, beginning a career- but I guess a spanner got thrown in the works. I mean, when the person you were making those plans with drops out, it makes a lot of sense to pack your bags and fly to America. 

Before you ask, I don’t know what made me go to the bridge either. I had heard that the Golden Gate Bridge was so big that every time they finish painting it, they have to start again, and I couldn’t comprehend something of that size. A work of art constantly being attended to and never being finished. That night, I was just sitting in bed eating from the mini fridge in my room, and watching a movie. I paused it half way and left.

 
When I was eight, I told my English teacher what was happening at home. He looked at me, smiled and said I should be grateful because at least I’d be able to stick up for myself when I was older. After that, every time I’d walk into English, I would look up at my teacher and remember that there is no use telling anyone anything. I ended up failing English, funnily enough. 

When I was eleven, I got into my first fight. It wasn’t over much- an action figurine or a playing card or something, but a voice in my head said “I can win this one”. And I did. And when a cop came over and asked what was going on, I told him to walk away, and he did. And that was when I learned that the world was fair. If no one was going to look out for me, no one was going to look out for the kid in the alleyway who had something I wanted. If I wanted it, I had to take it. And so, fair was fair. 

When I was seventeen, my mom died. When we were sitting at her funeral, the priest started talking about how God offers rest, how he is just and merciful. Mom didn’t get rest through justice or mercy though- she didn’t deserve to die, and the man who did was living and breathing right next to me. I guess that’s why the idea of “God the Father” didn’t really appeal either. That priest was wrong. That God was wrong.

When I was twenty two, I met her.

 
When he climbed back over the fence, I didn’t know what to do. He had felt so far away until he was right in front of me, and I hugged him. Completely without thinking about it, I just grabbed him and hugged him- he was really here in front of me. I could feel him laughing and when I let go, he had this huge smile on his face. Something in me realised he probably hadn’t been hugged in a long time. After that, I invited him to dinner. I had some money on me, but hadn’t seen any of the city apart from the route to my hotel and the view outside my window, so I asked him where we should go and he just began to walk as if it were any ordinary day. 

As we walked, I asked him about himself and he answered each question concisely- accurate but short sentences, like he wasn’t used to talking about himself but he was glad to. Or maybe he just thought I deserved the answers. Perhaps he just didn’t care any more. I guess neither of us thought we would get this far. So we continued to walk until we reached a small and nearly empty Chinese take away with a few tables and chairs scattered inside. A small old lady was seated at a table, a cigarette in her mouth, peeling string beans. She glanced up when when we entered, tapped her ash into the bucket of scraps, and returned to her work. A young man materialised out of nowhere and handed us menus, pointing to a booth next to the window. I placed my coat on the back of a fraying vinyl chair and sat down, putting my gloves in the pockets. He pulled up his sleeves to reveal arms that were milky white with scars. He noticed me staring, but didn’t say anything and I quickly turned to my menu as I felt a blush creep up my neck. I took off my scarf. He called over the young man who had been waiting for us eagerly, and quickly rattled off his order, as if by heart. I stammered out a foreign sounding dish and hoped for the best. He gave the waiter his menu and turned to me. 

“So.”

 
When we sat down to dinner, I was starving. I hadn’t eaten in a few days, like in preparation. I didn’t see the point of fuelling a vehicle that was going to the junk yard. I didn’t have my wallet on me, or anything, so I had no cash- I just sort of assumed she’d pay, and I hated myself for it. I don’t like accepting gifts, but I didn’t see a way out. She wanted a meal, and I needed one. So I took her to this crappy place on the outskirts of town- I’d been there a few times before to do pick ups and deliveries, and it was a real dump. Dan pretended not to know me when I walked in, which I was grateful for, but what was the point? He wasn’t surprised when I walked in, but I had figured for a long time that if I never walked in that door again, no one would notice. She ordered cows tongue but I’ve heard Australians eat funny things, so I didn’t question it. You know, it might not even have been her culture- it might just have been her. It took a while to climb over the ledge, and I was standing on the edge for a few minutes before she came along, looking down. No one stopped me or even honked from their car. Just like every other day, no one noticed. Except her. 

I wanted to get rid of Dan as quickly as possible so I ordered the first thing that came to mind and started to ask her about herself. I had already told her all the basics about me, but I wanted to know what had led her to be where she is. She sort of looked all embarrassed and awkward, like she didn’t know what to say. You’d think answering a question about yourself would be the easiest thing, but I reckon she was one of those people who like to listen more, and for that, I liked her.

 
I guess his transparency made it easier to talk to him. He’d been so open about his life- his mum dying when he was young, getting involved in gangs and drugs- everything that had led up to a point in his life when he felt worthless. I began to think that maybe a part of me identified. Sometimes, I think a part of everyone does. The sense that you’re not worth someone’s time, or energy, or love. The feeling that it might make things easier if you weren’t around. We all just live around the line of letting it overcome us. Today, he had crossed that line. So I told him about the past few months. Falling in love with the man of my dreams, and making plans about forever. The moment when it all fell apart and he left to live a different life. A better one, without me. And he listened. Even when my voice broke and my eyes watered and I struggled to explain how it feels to wake up on a Saturday morning and realise you have nothing planned, or how it feels to talk to everyone you were so excited to tell. He didn’t move except to pass me a napkin. Once I was done, he asked, so quietly that I barely caught it, “so why are you still here?” 

 
My earliest memory is of my mom holding me and telling me it was going to be alright. We were on the floor, and she was cradling me and rocking back and forth, and I had no idea what, exactly, was going to be alright. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t. 

When Dad came home drunk that night, and was ranting about the football scores, I didn’t even look up from my phone. I keep thinking that I should have. Mom was already busy preparing dinner, and scrambling to get him a beer while I was blindly scrolling through images, purposely not facing him. What a disgrace he was, how ashamed I was, he couldn’t even stand up straight. Recently, though, I’d been coming home more and more often exactly the same way. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He told me, plenty of times, to look at him and greet him like a good son, but I didn’t listen. I didn’t want to. I didn’t care. The stupid thing was, I didn’t believe him. 

My dad beat me for the first time when I was seven. Up until then, it was mom, but that night, I got in the way, and he realised it wasn’t any different, so he kept doing it. By the time I was seventeen, I figured I could take it. I’d learned to take it. He beat me, I beat others. Fairness. But that night, he didn’t beat me, he pulled out a gun. And I didn’t see it because I didn’t want to face him. Mom saw it. He gave me a last chance, and I ignored him, and she was next to me and then- 

And then she wasn’t. 

That night I lost the one person in this world who cared. The one person who kept telling me I was worth something, and the one person I believed. And it was my fault. And I went through four years of convincing myself it was okay, that I could keep living with a hole in my heart that I could cram full of things to keep me from remembering I was garbage. 

 
I couldn’t stop talking. After months of not telling anyone where I was going or why, I couldn’t stop telling him what had happened to me. But when he asked why I was still around, I stopped. I think everyone feels, deep down, that they are worthless at some point. But there also sometimes comes a point when we realise we are not. 

When I was twelve, I was invited to a camp, and I’d never gone to one before outside of school. It was very different. The food was better, the people were nicer, and I had the most fun I’d ever had in my life in that one week. I struggled to figure out what was different about this than other camps or hang outs. On the last day, a man got up and told me what exactly was different- these people knew what they were worth. They were worth loving, they were worth protecting, and they were worth dying for, and someone had done exactly that. A perfect man had died for the wrongs of imperfect people, and there was hope. Because even in a world that likes to tell us we are worthless, there is a voice above the rest screaming we are worth sacrificing everything for. And that’s someone worth listening to.

As I told him, I watched his eyes light up. His shoulders straightened, and his goofy smile faded to something much more beautiful. As I told him about Jesus, I said that I couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to be worth dying for. 

“I can,” he said.

 
My dad still lives in the house I grew up in. Many times, I’ve thought about going to that house and burning it to the ground. When I think of all he did to me, and what he did to mom, I sometimes think to myself he is not worth the ground he walks on. But the biggest fear for me growing up was that I was becoming him, and in that, I was also becoming worthless. Why should he love me when I was a reflection of him and he hated himself? But, as much as I’d done wrong, she told me about someone who didn’t care. As worthless as I felt, here was someone who, like my mom, had stood in the way of death for me and given me a second chance. A love to fill the hole is what I had needed. And as I sat there and listened, I slowly felt what I had resisted for so long- I felt rest. 

I Miss You

Friend, relative, lover, almost lover, stranger.

No matter how far apart and how long it’s been, I miss you.

Every time someone walks down the street and they have the curl of your hair or the scent of your cologne and I remember the last time you held me in your embrace – truly held me, unhindered by tension or anger or the weight of goodbye – I miss you.

 

I remember the conversations we used to have, late into the night.

The dreams I would dream you would catch and save for later. I remember the curve of your smile and the sound of your laugh – the gasping giggle, the impolite guffaw. Every moment went slow enough for time to take a break from ticking and yet impossibly way too fast. I can’t forget the way your eyes crinkled because my heart wrinkles in the same pattern every gasp as I realise I miss you.

 

And there’s a hole you forgot to fill.

Although I see you all the time – your bright eyed life on my screen, and the stories other people tell, the wind whistles as it whirls around the cracks around the hole you left, inconsiderately. When you left. You left and I never got to say… Well, it’s too late now. But I wonder if you’ll ever realise in your quiet moments that I’m still here and I miss you.

I’m sorry for that time I yelled.

I’m sorry for that thing I spilled.

I’m sorry for that gift I missed.

I’m sorry for that time you tripped.

I’m sorry for the times gone by.

I’m sorry I never got to ask you why.

And I’m just so sorry, but you need to know I miss you.

I miss you so badly.

And maybe I’ll never see you again. Or maybe I’ll see you in a crowd and not approach you because you look so happy. Perhaps I’ll see you sitting alone and not encroach because you look so sad. Dare I wonder whether you miss me? But oh my love, know this. I miss you.

Missionary Dating

A while ago, I wrote a blog post on dating non Christians. Lately I’ve been hearing a few questions about “missionary dating”, however, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to expand on that a bit.
One of the most common reasons for dating someone who isn’t a Christian is the idea that through your relationship, you can bring them to Christ. However, there are a few reasons I don’t think this will ever really work. 
The main reason is that, by default, when you decide to take a relationship further from “just friends” to “boyfriend/girlfriend”, the focus shifts. You’re concentrating on each other, and in order to bring someone to Christ, it’s essential that they’re focusing on Him. This is just impossible when you’re a couple. My dad, when he was a young man with and had just become a Christian, fell for this chick. She seemed pretty sweet and agreed to start going to church with him, so they could hang out more. The problem lies therein- she was going to make him happy, hang out with him, and meet his friends- she wasn’t convinced to go to check out Christ. If someone wants to make someone else happy, they’ll endure anything, rather than experience it. This probably would have been clearer if he’d grown up in the technology age and looked over to see her on her phone during the sermon. When you’re dating someone, you’re focus is on them- you either are evaluating them for the long run (in which case, refer to my other blog post on why that will always be a struggle with someone who doesn’t share the most important aspect of your life), or you’re dating for fun, and non Christians really don’t seem to find going to church on a regular basis fun. The question will always be raised, why don’t we just go out on a Friday night like everyone else? 
When I first started dating a non Christian, I did the smartest thing I’ve ever done (super proud of it) and ignored the advice of every role model in my life. I ignored their warnings, concerns and general misgivings and completely trusted my own naive, and undeveloped understanding. Yea, “proud”. But I do remember what they said, and one of the questions stuck, although I kept trying to confine it to the “later” drawer of my mind to ponder. If I, or you, were standing on a chair, and holding hands with this person you’re dating, would it be easier for them to pull you down or you to pull them up? The second problem with missionary dating is that you’re trying to create stronger bonds with someone when what you’ve chosen to be the most important thing in the world to you disrupts the beautiful harmony. You’re disagreeing on Jesus- it’s like a vegan marrying Ron Swanson. A family friend of ours got married to a strongly atheist man. For forty years, he refused to go to church, they got into passionate arguments and when he got cancer, she couldn’t bring him to church and he didn’t want church in his house, so she lost a lot of connection with her church community. Her heart broke as she watched the love of her life deteriorate, not knowing if she’s meet him in heaven.  Church builds us up, and so a partner is meant to. The bible says you become one with whomever you marry- you should challenge and support each other in and towards Christ. What if this person that you allow yourself to grow the deepest type of love for doesn’t end up in heaven with you? What if they hold you back from all God has for you? Don’t just be thinking about another person- you can’t do anything for anyone if you’re not looking after your own needs first. You need to receive in order to give, and your husband or wife is meant to be a great source for that. 

So what is the solution to missionary dating? No missionary or no dating. You either have to completely accept that you are confining yourself to this life- that you can’t force a person to change and just sort of live with the awful life of loving someone who should ultimately come second to the one who loved you first and point you to Him, or you can just not date them. Being a friend, and not growing these lovey dovey feelings for a while helps keep objectivity, perspective. You should always have non Christian friends, bring them to church, tell them about Christ, but once you date and especially if you can’t take it and you break up, that opportunity for you to minister is lost. 

This final story is my own. I think the hardest part about dating a non Christian is that you should always be focused on God, and when you allow yourself to really fall for someone who wants to pull you away from that, it’s so much easier to fall than keep going, like having a small child wrapped around your leg while you’re trying to walk. I remember this one night we had just had a huge fight, and as we were sort of making up about it, he said he’d come to church just to make me happy. My youth was having a formal night the next night, so I invited him to that, and when I met him at the train station, I had my dress with me and make up on, and he was in at shirt and jeans. I thought, well it maybe he didn’t have time to get dolled up. I had so much hope that months of hard work, constant diligence, patience, love and direction towards Jesus was coming to term. Another thing a role model said to me is not to mistake our will for Gods plan. He literally looked at me and told me that he’d meant it at the time, but now we were fine, so… 

 He never did end up coming to church, possibly because I soon broke up with him. When I was late, and alone, I knew I couldn’t keep doing that. I couldn’t keep turning up to church alone. 

Don’t keep turning up to church alone.

Food for thought. 

missionary dating

For When Your Heart Is Breaking.

I started this blog to deal with every issue that I feel isn’t addressed often, correctly or as much as needed. Heart break is one, and one I have been avoiding until I felt like I could do it justice. 

Let me begin by addressing that it sucks. I will do you the favour of not pretending, like people who are just trying to make you feel better quicker, that there is some perk to heart ache. Not the simple, quick break up, but when you took a leap of faith and fell. When your chest constricts (scientifically because your brain has encountered a situation so emotionally stressful it is flooding your body both with hormones to speed and slow your heart), and tears constantly threaten to fall from your eyes because you can’t stop thinking of what might have been. If you hadn’t, if they hadn’t. I am so sorry for your loss. Whether you can avoid them or they live just down the road, there is no ignoring the link between your thoughts and your broken heart. 
I guess the revelation that came to me which prompted this post was simply that whatever it could have been, it wasn’t. You can shed tears, scream into your pillow and try and convince someone that it was meant to be, but it wasn’t. Your heart is broken because something else broke first. At least one of you thought it just couldn’t work, and a relationship can’t function on only one half trying. If he had just trusted me, if she would just try a little harder, if only I could feel for them what they wanted me to feel, it would have worked, but it didn’t. And that was to date the scariest revelation I have ever had. You may have done absolutely nothing wrong, but it still didn’t work. Life sucks like that, and if your heart is aching my heart goes out to you. Although the thought scared me, however, it helped. My second break up was much faster than the first because I was on the back foot. I was the one doing the convincing, and I came to realisation I am sharing with you now- that it was just not meant to be. Maybe in the future, maybe not, but right now with this person, it could not function. A Facebook relationship guru once said “break ups are just the universe telling you there is something better.” Your love isn’t enough to carry the weight for two, just as your lack of emotion isn’t fair on the one trying to carry you. A break up simply means this wasn’t meant to be. 
So it is at this point the anger has already rushed through you, and logic starts to come back as your brain adjusts to a new situation and the chemicals settle. Ignore the people who tell you how long it “should be” before you heal and need to get back out there. Do what you need. Watch YouTube, read another six articles, watch some comedy, bury their things. Listen to either “The One That Got Away” by Civil Wars or “The One That Got Away” by Katy Perry depending which side of the fence you are on (for both the accoustic version is better). Talk to those who can help and do not ignore the pain. Pain is like many bad things, including mould, dirty socks and mysterious lumps- the longer you ignore them, the worse they will get. Taking the time to deal with it means you nip it in the bud. As long as you know you tried your hardest, accept it wasn’t meant to be and there is something much better waiting. There is someone who will feel for you as you do for them- who will try as hard, love as much and make you feel like you deserve. It is not a cliche that you deserve the best, but the truth. If they didn’t want you or you couldn’t love them, they were not the best for you. Also consider they may be the best for someone else.

Food for thought.

Oh and some advice for free- food for your body needs to consist of less ice cream.
  

Relationships and Religion

Socks and shoes. Cereal and milk. Toothpaste and toothbrush (shout out to the Elizabethans who used twigs and chalk). Some things just go better together. 
I was thinking about the purpose of a relationship, recently, and it’s a bit of a weird question (my favourite type). While we all seem to fall into them from time to time, first with our family, then with friends and later dating, et cetera, we rarely question the actual purpose of relationship with each other. But why? Dangerous thoughts spring up when you stop wondering how or what and start thinking why. 
So, we turn to the Bible. Genesis 2, the first ever relationship, and it’s not between two people, but man and God. V7, “the Lord God took a handful of soil and made a man. God breathed life into the man, and the man started breathing.” In v16, the first exchange of conversation. As it was in the beginning, Jesus also encourages the relationship between man and God as the primary one. Matthew 22:37, Jesus says there are two commandments that sum up life. Interestingly, both have to do with relationships. The first, as mentioned, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.” The purpose of relationship, I’ve come to realise, is to grow a loving relationship with the one who programmed this want and need into us. The first, and most important relationship and reason for a relationship is God. 
I’ve got to say, though, that having been a bit of a loner at times, I’ve tried to live on a diet of only God. Waking up every morning and having a conversation with him is good, but not great. And I realised that the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t satisfied- God can satisfy- but that I wasn’t full. Our God is a God of abundance and love. He isn’t happy with half ways or 80%’s. Our God is a god of 110%. Genesis 2:18, God says “it is not good for man to be alone,” and he makes woman. Adams joy is pretty much the first love song ever. (V23) “Here is someone like me! She is part of my body, my own flesh and bones. She came from me, a man. So I will name her woman!” Jesus says that the second most important commandment is “to love your neighbour as yourself“. It’s pretty simple and straightforward. God gives us the ability and desire to love people (1 Corinthians 13:1-8, 1 John 4:8) and highlights its importance throughout the entire bible. Our religion doesn’t dictate one of loneliness, but one of fellowship and connection as we build each other up and learn to live life to the fullest. 

So, my theory so far is that God gives us relationships to teach us about his heart, and who he is, teach us to yearn for him and have fun in life, but what role do relationships play in our lives? What about when they don’t go the way they’re supposed to?

I think the part some people forget when looking at the story of Adam and Eve is that they had a great time when they were doing as God wanted. Religion, or rules, aren’t there to make life suck, but to make it better. This whole “marriage oath” thing isn’t a contract to be adhered to, but the suggestion that loyalty and faithfulness is more significant than difficulties encountered when doing Gods work and loving each other. Sex shouldn’t be saved for marriage because God is a prude, but because he’s got a great plan for it (110%, remember?). Genesis 2:24-25 (funnily enough, Jesus also mentions this verse), “that’s why a man will leave his own father and mother. He marries a woman and the two become like one person. Although the man and his wife were both naked, they were not ashamed.” In the original plan, the two people did as God said and there was nothing wrong. No shame, nothing. It worked. It screws up when they screw up. 

Genesis 3:6; the woman eats the fruit and the man follows. The first sin.

Genesis 3:7; the shame. Just comes. It just happens. First thing, shame. They cover up. Then 

Genesis 3:10; the relationship with God is screwed up, as Adam is frightened when he hears God walking through the garden

Genesis 3:12; the relationship between the two of them is ruined as Adam blames Eve to try and save his own skin. 
So, what do we do? What can we do? If we are stuck in this stuffed up relationship with God, how are we meant to have any connection with each other? Every person you will ever love will die. Every person you will ever love has the ability to hurt you- quote, “love is giving someone the ability to break your heart and trusting that they won’t.” End quote. Suddenly something beautiful turns into something that scares a lot of people. It scares me. Well, once again we turn to the Bible. 
God knows that we’re lost, and that we’re going to screw up. He always presents us with hope, though. 
He connected us with him. 

John 3:16- it was Gods love that brought us back to him. He reaches out for us, and all he asks is that we come back, through Christ. He wants to repair that relationship, even though we will continue to stuff it up, again and again, generation by generation (Romans 5:6-8). The Bible draws a connection between that first relationship between man and God and the one we have now. 

Romans 5:12-21.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ,overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

And then, through the Bible, God teaches us again how to love others. He teaches us about forgiveness, and loving our enemies, love for the poor, compassion, romance. He gives us all we need to keep living lives where we connect with everyone, discriminate against no one. We will screw up, but the God who looks past that and encourages us just to keep trying, in his name- well, that’s one hell of a love story. Hosea presents us with the story of a prophet told to marry a prostitute to demonstrate Gods love for us, Isaiah foreshadows the death of someone who we will mock and beat and yet will still die for us, Song of Songs is a collection of love poems from God to his people, we are described in Ephesians as being the bride of Christ- God is screaming out about the purpose of relationships in religion. A God who wants to know us, and wants us to know each other, not shallowly, but walking every step of the way together. He is our father, our friend, our groom, our king. A relationship that humbles us and lifts us. One of grace. One that teaches us how to love each other. A plan. 

Zephaniah 3:17 (a lesser known one about our relationship with the Lord, but a good one)
The Lord your God wins victory after victory and is always with you. He celebrates and sings because of you, and he will refresh your life with his love.”
  

Home

Home is where the heart is, and as I look around, I see my heart reflected.I think my home has become more to my family than my parents ever expected.

My heart is written in the clothes on the floor and the shelves that are filled with books

In every little cranny that one has curled into, and in every little nook. 

  
My heart is thrown across the back of chairs and in the sound of joy

In every tinkling of music, the instruments, and the squeak of every toy

Our hearts are bared on the mantelpiece in every single photograph

Our memories printed on paper and put in glass cases bursting with each laugh

  
My heart is in the living room, where advice has been given as hearts break

My heart is in the kitchen, where my mother has cooked as I have tried to bake

My heart is in the bathroom, hours spent looking pretty as dad shaved

My heart is in the spare change jar where all our coins are saved

  
My heart is in the eyes of mum and in the smile of my dad

Our joy is spread through the most happy times and the saddest of the sad

My love is shown by my hugs and giggles and sometimes by my words

My spirit is displayed on my sleeve, even when it hurts

  
Yes, home is where the heart is because as I look around I see my heart

In this building, under this roof and in every piece that plays a part 

It’s somewhere to come back to, and somewhere to get old

My heart will be here long after every part is gone, in every story that is told.

Blame

So the question asked to me to write on was “Why does god blame us for the causes of suffering although he created us sinful beings?” A very, very loaded question which I will attempt to slowly unpack. If you disagree or have anything to comment or ask, feel free to do so in the comments bar 🙂 

I’m going to split this question, and then, like a good chef, tie everything together at the end. 

Why does God blame us?

This  was, funnily enough, what I saw as the biggest part of the question because it’s a misunderstanding that is the precursor to the other parts. To believe that God sees us as the causes of suffering and to be confused  about him creating us to be sinful, we must first accept that he’s blaming us, and that is unacceptable. 

Picture it like this. A child grows up and while they are growing up, they make mistakes. That is unavoidable. Sometimes those mistakes are simple, sometimes they hurt other people, but in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul states that when we were children we thought as children, while Jesus refers to the innocence of a child. They don’t know what they’re doing wrong. This is the state that Adam and Eve started off in. Innocence, because they didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. 

Then we grow up into adults and we’re expected to know better. Adam and Eve could have stayed in bliss, but chose not to. Life, parents, people teach us what we can and can’t do. And this is where the concept of “blame” comes in. Because if an adult commits a crime (makes a mistake, does something wrong), then a judge and indeed a jury will charge them for it. You expect it- it’s justice. However, here is also where grace comes in. Because the Bible doesn’t say our God is one of blame, but one of love. I can’t say it happens all the time,  because we’re only human, but there are times when someone commits a crime and the ones they love them don’t blame them but find the grace to live them. Stick by them. And that is just a tiny example of how God feels about us. For everyone, for every mistake, he offers love and forgiveness. 

We know he’s a god is grace and love, and the mentality of blame just doesn’t fit into that. 


For the causes of suffering 

I’ve outlined on here before about suffering. I’ll use the same principle, but with the nice little metaphor I’ve just set up. 

So, we serve a God of love, and yet look around us and it is clear that we do not occupy a world of love. Why is that so? I have speculated that we need to first examine “love”. This inherent urge to protect, provide, have compassion for, experience empathy, forgive and love other people, from which stems happiness and peace (which can sometimes seem lost in amongst the cloud of sad dreariness that occupies our society)- where does it come from? I believe, from the plan set out in the very beginning, that these qualities come from God. In Genesis, God says “we will create man and he will be like us.” I’ll come back to that later. But basically, we were clearly given the capacity to be good people. The world was given to us with the intention that we’d take good care of it. Other people were put in this world so that we could get more out of life, experience the love and companionship a community provides. They were good plans! But if you drop a pebble into a pool of water, you’d better expect there to be ripples. 

So, earlier in the story, we saw God as the loving father. The Bible refers to him as this many times. Because a God of love- the God who I follow, the God who is preached to me, the God in the Bible- does not sit on his little throne with his little thunderbolts waiting for us to screw up. The loving father doesn’t hit his kids every time they do something bad. But say an adult does something bad. If they ask their parents for forgiveness, the parents might forgive them. Even the victim and the judge might forgive them. But the Bible refers to God as just, and he wouldn’t be just if there was no punishment. That wouldn’t be fair. So the judge sentences the man to gaol. 

Sin causes suffering not because God likes it that way. Sin causes suffering because God had a plan for Good and sin is literally the decision to turn away from that plan. If a politician decides to be greedy, he can start a war and cause the suffering of millions of innocent people. If a country perpetrates the ideals that we can own everything (*cough cough capitalism*), then millions of children can be confined to sweatshops, forced to work sixteen hours a day and get paid a dollar- sin has consequences. If you lie to someone and they find out they can get hurt. Simple. And are you expecting a God of love to sit back and watch this happening without hurting? He doesn’t. He won’t. No, God doesn’t create suffering. We do that easily enough. But he is just and so he doesn’t shield us from ourselves and the consequences of what we do. This is where the judge and the father meet. The father also has to let his kids, one day, figure it out for themselves. He’s there, he’s loving, and he’s ready to help, but bad stuff happens because we live in a world where people keep choosing to do bad things. This is sin. Not the wild party advertised, but the root of suffering.

Although he created us sinful beings.

Genesis, first book, God says, let’s make them like us. God is not sinful. 

The gospels, first chapter, Mary gives birth to a son from God. Jesus is therefore Gods son. God is not sinful. 

I once had a preacher say to me that there are things God cannot do. This is a lie. I was like ten at the time and I knew it was a lie. I just didn’t have the time to tell him. Sing with me- “my God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do! (That’s true!)” The man speaking told the congregation that God cannot sin. That is a lie. Where is the proof? If he created us in his image, and we can sin, then he can sin. If he sent Jesus and Jesus was tempted like we are all tempted (hebrews 4:15), then God can sin. If you know the difference between right and wrong, you can sin. The problem with getting to heaven, though, is that God doesnt sinHe is not sinful. Every day, he picks right, which is how I know he’s not an angry or vengeful God, because he has said not to be. I know he’s loving be cause he tells me to be loving. And when he created us, humanity, me, you (who asked yhis question), he created us in his image and that was to be not sinful. He sent Christ and told us to follow Christ (thats all that being a christian is) and Christ was not sinful! So therefore, God didnt create us sinful beings. He created us with intelligence and the capacity to choose whatever we want to do. A loving father does not control every action of his kids. If you sin, and you get hurt, there is a God out there watching over you whom is hurts very much, and he really wishes you’d turn around and come home. 

I’d like to finish with another image. The prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) He leaves a father who loves him and has taught him everything he can. A father who sounds like a great guy. A father who has, as most fathers sdo, raised his son in his own image. The son rebels, the father lets gim go. The son lives against his fathers wishes and warnings and winds up feeding pigs, suffering the consequences of his own rash actions. The son realises he was much better off living with his father. He returns not to judgement but to open arms. Because even a God of just judgement figured it out so that we would not suffer being apart from him anyway, but instead  sacrificed his son so that even when we seperate ourselves from him, we can always come back.

That is a God of love. 

To conclude. God doesnt blame us. He made you smart enough to make your own choices, which is what everyone wants anyway, and then told you how to do it safely and having the most fun. A little handibook called the Bible. Whether you do it or not is up to you. If you dont go the way of the plan, like putting toothpaste in a car that clearly needs fuel, then you have to face the consequences, like a car that won’t drive. And yet, God will always accept you home. 
I hope this has answered your question.