“People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you figure out which it is you know exactly what to do” – Michelle Ventor
Have you ever wondered why certain people cross your path? Or why you have struck up particular friendships with people? Have you ever thought about how some people seem to explode into your life and then just as quickly as they appear, they disappear again? What about those relationships with no defining moment of conception? How does that happen?
Do people appear in your life to impart a certain piece of knowledge or wisdom? Or do they come with a set of tools to help you get out of a particular fix?
Have you considered the reason why you appear in other’s lives? Do you have lots of friends you share the surface of your life with, or do you have one or two with whom you share the deepest intimacies of each daily struggle? Are you that person who is deeply connected with only a handful of people or are you one who has a mixture of relationships in your life?
How do you recognise those people who touch your life only briefly, and how do you recognise that you must let them move on once they have fulfilled their purpose in your life?
I am a firm believer that there is a time and a place for everything, and that includes the complex, shifting, fragmented nature of our relationships. “Ours is not to reason why” as the saying goes, and similarly it isn’t for us to explain ourselves to a society with its own fixed and un-shifting rules about relationships either.
I have recently begun to watch “Touched By An Angel”, a programme that is broadcast here in the UK on the CBS channel. Each week we see three angels who have different jobs to do on a mission from God to work with an individual, or a group of individuals who are experiencing some sort of crisis. I was extremely doubtful and very wary when I first saw it – it seemed a little far-fetched – but there was something about its subtlety that hooked me in. The corniness of angels appearing to random strangers was (and still is) a bit much for me – it puts me in mind of “Quantum Leap”, which is in a similar vein – but time after time the message of love and compassion really hits home. The stories are all basically an examination of how different relationships work – or don’t, as the case may be – and how some people are with us for the long haul whilst others literally buzz in and out after completing their “task”. Angels visiting us I’m definitely dubious about, but people appearing in our lives to tinker with them here and there? I’m definitely with that idea.
I remember an incident on day about 12 years ago when I was going through a particularly bad patch. I felt as though I was being weighed down by my own life – the responsibility of it all; the drudge, the dreariness and the despair were all weights on my shoulders that were pressing me down and crushing my spirit. It was with this cocktail of misery swishing around inside me one morning on my way to work that the thought popped into my head “if I just stepped out in front of this lorry it would all go away and I’d be at peace”. It wasn’t so much a conscious thought but more of a vision, like a film unfolding in my mind’s eye. I was walking along a main road in the city centre at the time, and the traffic was very heavy. The solution to my troubles seemed very simple – just step out and let it stop.
Just at the moment I thought that, a man stepped in front of me, blocking my path. I’ll never forget him. He was black, with chubby cheeks, wearing scruffy clothes and a dazzling smile. He said to me, “You are beautiful when you smile you know!”.
I was stunned. Not only had someone on the morning commute actually SPOKEN to me, but his radiant positivity in that one sentence was infectious and I couldn’t help but smile back.
Two or three steps further down the road I turned around to look at him again, but he’d disappeared. I’m assuming into the crowd….but who’s to say for sure?!
What that very short interaction did that day was nothing short of a miracle. I’m in no doubt that without it, I would have done something extreme to say the least. I couldn’t say that I was feeling suicidal exactly, but the knowledge that my pain would all stop if I did what I’d seen in that film-strip in my mind’s eye was almost too powerful. I believe God spoke to that man right then to intervene and say those words to me, and even though our “relationship” lasted only a matter of seconds, it had a profound impact on me right there and then, and it has stayed with me ever since.
That relationship was definitely for a reason, and I am eternally grateful for it.
So, what about those other relationships, the season and the lifetime ones?
I have difficulty with these – I want all my “season” friends to be my “lifetime” friends, and I get very distressed about when the season ones look like they are coming to an end. I’m sure I’m not alone in grieving for friendships that have reached their natural conclusion and where I don’t actually want to acknowledge that fact.
I’ll come back to that thorny issue in another post, but I will close this with one last point: Sometimes our “reason” friends can become “season” friends if we handle them right, and by the grace of God, our “season” friends can become our “lifetime” friends.