I recently connected with a number of friends I had lost touch with after high school.
It’s difficult to believe, but 20 years have passed since I lived in the Chattanooga area in a little neighborhood called Mill Run, nestled neatly in a partial of land located directly behind my Alma Mater.
Chattanooga, Tennessee, downtown city skyline.
I loved that neighborhood, the place we called home during my high school years, the covered bridge you had to cross to get to the school, and the rich memories I have of my childhood there.
I loved it, and I left it.
There’s a Darrell Scott song that says,
“It’s been fifteen years since I left home
Said good luck to every seed I’d sown
Gave it my best, then I left it alone
I hope they’re doing all right”
In my case, it’s been 20 years, but the words of the song ring true just the same. It was almost as if I took the first available train out of Chattanooga and, with my well-wishes, left it alone.
Perhaps that’s why this fall, when I had the privilege of helping coordinate our 20 year high school reunion, it was accompanied by a flood of emotions. It’s hard to describe the mixture of joy and regret, excitement and anxiety, and deep reflection that accompanies a 20 year reunion in your childhood town.
I know many who don’t like the idea of reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in 20 years. I get that. To varying degrees, we were all pretty foolish in high school. But I found this reunion very beneficial. My wife put it well, “It was very different from the 10 year… It seemed like everyone was very comfortable and not trying to impress each other.”
The fact is, there’s a lot of water under the bridge that leads back to our high school. Twenty years is a long time. Life has beat us all up a bit, and we’ve lived long enough to experience some major failures of our own. We’ve fallen on our faces many times, and we’re more aware of our need for grace (and hopefully more gracious as a result).
One of my friends from elementary school recently posted this on FaceBook:
“I am going to church today. My deepest prayer is that God will send wisdom and peace to me and bless my wife and children. I will pray, I will sing, and I will listen. May the Lord have mercy on me for all that I have done that is so wrong. Bless all of you.”
This note is one of my favorite notes that I’ve ever read on social media. I’m confident my friend will receive mercy from God.
Mercy is not getting what you deserve.
Grace is getting the favor you don’t deserve.
Both mercy and grace are available to everyone who calls on the Lord, even after 20 years of straying (or more).
As long as you have breath in your lungs, it’s never too late to turn to the LORD. “While you are among the living, you have hope!” (Ecclesiastes 9:4).
God’s self-revelation of Himself is as a merciful and gracious God: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6).
He is full of tenderness and compassion toward you: “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).
If you come to Him, and pour our your heart to Him, He will hear your cry and respond with grace and mercy: “He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry” (Isaiah 30:19).
You have not outlived God’s mercy.
Twenty years may have passed, and that is a long time; but God can make everything new.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1-5)