Day 10— Restless [Isaiah 41:17]

When the poor and needy search for water and there is none, and their tongues are parched from thirst, then I, the Lord, will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will never abandon them. — Isaiah 41:17

Two people I know died today. One was the spouse of a coworker.

The other was my mentor, the man who helped shape who I am today professionally. He knew me back when I was just starting out, when I was totally inexperienced, with no clear goals, and but a small fraction of the maturity, wisdom, and presence of mind I have now.

We’d fallen out of touch in recent years. The last I’d heard of him was when he suffered a personal tragedy of his own, losing his wife to cancer that came on quickly and destroyed her in very, very short order.

He never knew how much of an impact he had on my life, at least not in a formal sense. We didn’t have that conversation where the torch is passed and the student becomes the master. In fact, that wasn’t the dynamic of our relationship. But he was instrumental in setting me on the path I’m still on, the better part of two decades later.

I’m a much different person than I was back in those days. I’m successful in my field, well-regarded by my peers, and I enjoy my work. All three of those facts are very hard won truths that came on the heels of a LOT of personal and professional failures. I suffered greatly and made more mistakes than I should admit to, in order to achieve what I now have.

But all I can think of tonight is the past — what he must have seen in me, even at such a young age. People have been telling me my whole life that I was destined to do great things, to be a success. I never believed them. Many days, even now, I still think this will all go up in a puff of smoke, that I will wake up suddenly as the failure I’ve always secretly believed I am.

He didn’t treat me as broken. He supported, guided, and taught me lessons that I wouldn’t realize the impact of until much, much later. He somehow realized that, where I only saw pieces, there was a bigger picture for me to piece together.

Tonight, as I sit here writing, I’m both grateful and sad, reaching the time of my life and career where I, too, can be someone’s mentor — seeing things in them that are yet to come, and helping them achieve their full potential.

I never thought I would be where I am today, with all the scars and all the hard-won accomplishments.

Today’s verse, to me, is especially appropriate. It talks about how God never abandons anyone, regardless of how it may feel at the time. And I was reminded so deeply of that when I got the news of my mentor’s passing.

Somehow, even though I never pick up on it at the time, God provides. He untangles the knots, straightens the roads, and makes everything work out in the end. It may not always be in the time I would like. It may not always be in a way that makes immediate sense to me. Nevertheless, He has the big picture all squared away, and sometimes, I just need to remember to go with it.

I’m grateful for old friends, old teachers, and old memories tonight. The past is bittersweet, but so absolutely necessary.

Tomorrow, I will wake up and try to figure out how I can continue to be Jesus in someone’s life, to help others like I have been helped.

You never know the effect you have on others.