Everybody loves a good before and after. Two little photos, placed side by side, are evidence of a transformation. A significant weight loss. A sassy new hairdo. A piece of furniture resurrected from a garbage heap.
A before and after is proof that things can be changed. Anything can be brought back from a place of ruin or neglect. With a can-do attitude and a little elbow grease, your face, your home, your backside—anything, really—can be made shiny, new, and desirable.
The trip from before to after is usually a long one. It might only take seconds for us to scroll past a post, but it was likely a very long and arduous journey for someone to get their two little hard-won, contrasting pictures.
Sometimes, before and after happen in the blink of an eye.
Not long ago, two families in our community faced the unimaginable when their teen children were suddenly and inexplicably taken from their earthly homes. A car accident claimed those vibrant souls and brought heavy pain and sadness to so many people. The loss of a young person is always the deepest cut. It’s impossible to comprehend how someone so full of life and potential can be gone. How does an entire future just vanish? How do you lose what hasn’t even happened yet? To have “what might have been” ripped away adds an extra layer to what already feels like more than we can bear.
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After the accident happened, I found myself on the fringes of several social media posts requesting prayers for the families. I bowed my head and asked the Lord to be with these families, to comfort their friends, and to bring something good out of a place where there seemed to be none. I kept checking my feed for updates on the kids’ conditions and eventually found myself on the social media page of one of their parents.
The page was flooded with prayers and affirmations. So many people sending love and support. Social media can often be such a pit of negativity, but this space felt almost holy.
I scrolled down and found a father’s first post following the accident that would claim his son’s life.
For a moment, I let my mind go to a place of wondering what it must have been like to pen that post. The panic a parent would feel, knowing something is terribly wrong, not sure what exactly it is, but certain that only heavenly intervention can make it right. The bargaining and pleading with God, the hope for a miracle, and the anguish of considering the worst-case scenario—all condensed into a three-word plea to the abyss of the internet.
“Need urgent prayer.”
The post that really got me in the gut was still a couple of scrolls away.
“Anyone know of anybody that repairs pressure washers?”
There it was. The knee-buckling before.
I blinked at my screen. It is difficult to comprehend a world in which something as mundane as a pressure washer repair can coexist with petitions for prayers for your child’s life.
When a tragedy hits so swiftly, there is always a jarring before and after.
One moment, you’re in the before, when you can’t even fathom something like this could happen. The next, you’re in the after when absolutely nothing is ever the same.
Before the phone call.
Before the diagnosis.
Before he walked out.
Before I could turn around.
Before everything changed.
In this before and after, there is no backsliding, no returning to the Land of Before. You can’t go back, no matter how badly you want to. “Before” is a country with closed borders. You can see in, but you can’t cross over. It’s something you can feel, but you can’t touch.
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Everything now is After. Nothing will be as it was Before.
Except for Him. God was there in the before, He is waiting in the after, and He fills all the spaces in between. Since the beginning of time and until the end of days, He is there, He is here, and He will never, ever leave.
He has no before. He has no after. He is only forever.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13).