This was one of the questions I was asked to think about in advance of being on a Q&A panel for young adults in our church.
My reaction was pretty instant – ‘It gets better’. And then following that ‘but it won’t always be easy’.
Some people say your childhood and youth are the best days of your life. Not for all of us. Mine sucked. There were some good bits and there were some very good people amidst it all but I was fundamentally very insecure, a reflection of growing up in a hurting and damaged family.
By 20 I was away, in Sheffield, deliberately a couple of hundred miles away to start again. After a quiet first year at University, my 20 year old self got going. Egged on by new pal, music student Jamie I was part of the criminally bad but (in our minds) hilarious band, Ballistic Goat. After finding my faith challenged initially it was now growing and I got more involved in church and helped lead a Christian Union group. I did the requisite amount of Sociology to get by.
Looking back and compared to now I was instinctively cynical and pretty fearful about what life held in store. I worried (a lot) that I would never find someone willing to be Mrs Luck. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.
Like many young Christians I wanted a word from God that it was all going to work out. On reflection this was as much about wanting certainty and control as wanting to follow God’s path.
But sure enough things did get better. I finished my degree and found a sense of purpose, joining and working at a church in the East of the city. On Millennium night at a do back at my old church, I plucked up the courage to sidle up to a lass I’d taken a shine to and by July the next year we were married. Joe followed and then so did Ben. I got a job in the Council and then a better one. I took on shared leadership of our church. We got ready to move to a bigger house. And then…
Along the way I’d come to expect that things would just keep getting better. God was good and I got a theology that said life would always be good.
Dave and Kate who lead young adults’ church decided on an interesting four people for their Q&A panel. The questions were open enough to interpretation. As well as the ’20 year old self’ one, there was a summary of your faith journey, a question about what’s helped you stick with it and a final one about what Jesus means to each of us.
There was plenty of scope for at least one of us to make out that it’s easy, that it’s all gone without a hitch, that it just gets better. No-one did.
Of course I had to talk about losing Ben. I can’t do two minutes of life history without that, it’s just too big a part of our story. Mine was not the only tragedy. There was plenty of grief and pain. There were mental health issues. There was horrible uncertainty and agonising waiting. There were times of doubt and confusion. Ultimately there were four people who could say from gritty honesty that God has been faithful. He has carried us each through so much. He has provided wonderful community. Our valleys have not lasted forever though we don’t pretend there won’t be others to face. God’s promised grace has been sufficient.
So what do I think of my first reaction that it gets better? For all the heartache it has. I give thanks for the many times I believe he has been involved in my circumstances, in tangibly meeting our needs. But more than that, when our circumstances have been bad and baffling he has been there, sustaining, comforting and re-making us.
Creation is not a one off – not the whole thing and not us. God’s promise is to keep applying his creative work to us, day by day, situation by situation. So I don’t look back to my youth with any sense of yearning, I look forward to what is to come knowing whatever it is he will be there making life work better.