Moving On

***Names have been changed in this devotion to protect privacy of those involved.

“The first step to joy is a plea for help.” ~Max Lucado

Looking back now, the past two months are kind of a blur. It has been a blast starting college and I have enjoyed meeting so many new people. For those first few weeks, we all had the same feeling of culture shock and everyone walked around with the same dazed and confused look. While aspects of this were very uncomfortable, part of it was freeing too. When everyone felt out of place, there was really no reason to feel out of place.

One kid on our floor, Forrest, was a uniting force. He would invite different people to play ping pong with him in the game room. He saved a seat in the lunch room for whoever needed a place to sit. He was an open book when it came to his own life stories and allowed all of us to share ours’ with him and—by association—each other.

Needless to say, through getting to know Forrest my floor bonded. We’re a fairly mixed group, but we’ve come to care about each other and form this unique little family. But as we’ve been getting to know each other, one conversation topic that keeps coming up continues to shock me. Nearly everyone has something they are trying to get away from by going to college.

It’s a terrible feeling to be stuck. Rather it’s being controlled by guilt, trapped in a relationship, paralyzed by fear, or locked in place by some other stress, it’s a painful realization that you’re frozen and can’t move on.

My little family up here in Greeley has been frozen since Monday.

While eating dinner Monday, Forrest came to the table. He’d been in a bit of a funk the last few weeks, but about halfway through dinner, Forrest seemed to snap. When one girl from our group asked him a question, he picked up her food and through it across the table. We were shocked. Forrest looked shocked himself.

We sat in silence for a few seconds. Another girl from my floor took the lead and asked Forrest to leave. In a bit of a huff, he did. That was when his roommate Trevor spoke up.  Trevor said that Forrest was on pain killers for an injury he’d obtained over the weekend and that Forrest had been talking a lot about intentionally overdosing on the medication.  Our radar went up.  One girl went to check on Forrest while the rest of us went to get help. When we all got to his room, he was prepared, pills in hand, to OD.

The next few hours are a bit of blur for everyone as phone calls were made, questions were asked, tears were cried, and Forrest was taken to a psych hospital.

Suicide has become a very real problem in our society. During my four years in high school, there were two suicides and two additional attempts. You don’t have to look too far to see that there is pain, fear, grief, and confusion all around us. Often we can’t get over our problems, we can’t get past our guilt, we can’t forget about our pain, we can’t forgive our mistakes…we can’t let go.

Everyone has something they are trying to get away from.

Our week in Greeley sort of fell apart from there. Trevor decided he needed to get away. He requested a transfer to housing across campus. Everyone on the floor was hurt. I don’t think anyone could really blame him, but it felt like our family was falling apart. When I was in his room to help him pack he told me, “Last night was crazy Zach. I just need to leave in order to move on.”

When I get in a stressful situation, my default response is to try and “fix it.” Rather than move, I dig in my heels and try harder to make sure that no one is hurt and the situation works out. I cling to the problem, determined to find a solution. But my response is not what Jesus encouraged us to do. As long as we try to fix things, we will always be stuck. Rather than focusing on our problems, our guilt, our pain, and our mistakes, God invites us to give them to him. God wants us to move on.

This is of course easier said than done.  Do we “forgive and forget”? Do we “just walk away”? Are there certain words we say, prayers we mutter, or symbolic gestures we should make? There really isn’t a formula for “moving on.” One of my favorite bible verses is 1 Corinthians 13:13. In The Message translation it says, “But for right now, until then, we have three things to do to lead us: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.” It never mentions worrying about problems or controlling situations. All we have to do is trust, hope, and love.

In some ways, Trevor has a much better response to problems than I do. He gave up control, gave up comfort, gave up everything he’d come to know in college in order to move on from the problem. He took a risk and trusted that God would get him through it.

And you know what? It worked. Trevor had a chance to go home and catch up with his family and friends back home. He has a new roommate and is loving the people on his new floor. He is moving on. While everyone on our floor misses him, during the snow storm this week, we had the chance to play together carving snowmen, making snow angels, and having snowball fights. We grew closer. We moved on.

The reality is, this whole situation is a lose/lose. Forrest will come home tonight, and nothing will be the same. People have been shocked, wounded, and hurt. Forrest‘s life will be different, as will all of his relationships. He will have to put his life back together, and we will have to bring him back into the family. We are going to have to move on together. Because of the pain, wounds, and hurts, this is not going to be easy.

The reality is, most of us aren’t strong enough to move on by our own free will. It’s painful. Only God’s love can solve problems, erase guilt, relieve pain, and forget mistakes. Everything else and everyone else is temporary. No other solution will work. Receiving God’s love is the only way we can move on.

And God will not only help us move on: God will help us heal.

“Other’s may abandon you, divorce you, and ignore you, but God will love you. Always. No matter what.” ~ Max Lucado

Zach Herzog


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