“It’s a long story, but it’s all good now.”
That was a line that stuck with me from an email from an old friend of mine. (And yes, most of my friends are now old.) When I read the line from the email over ten years ago, I chuckled. I laughed because I could have written the same thing to him.
I hadn’t been in contact with my friend for years. He was now a minister in Alabama. We had sort of lost track of each other. It had been a long time since those days at Clement. He had been married for years, and now had two adult children and grandkids. But he and his wife had to deal with some major difficulties along the way. But challenges had been met, and their lives were going well.
For me, I could also say that it had been a long story, but it was all good now. I had been through some difficult times. But things were looking up, and I was beginning a new chapter in my life.
I suppose everyone has a story. And the older you are, the longer your story becomes. My story, like yours, is unique. It’s mine. You have yours. But in many ways, our stories are similar. We all have had our ups and downs, good times and bad. There are days of change, then days when you think nothing is ever going to change.
As I look back on my story, three words come to mind. Family, friends and faith. If you have been reading my columns over the years, you have a pretty good knowledge about my family. Growing up on a farm in downtown Clement, (For you folks that don’t know, that’s between Clement School and Garthie Carroll’s Store.) I was surrounded by a loving family that reinforced in me the basic character traits that would lay the foundation for my story. Things were not always easy. But I always knew my family would be there for me.
Most of them have now passed on. But for my sister and me, their impact remain. And now I have the opportunity to be a part of Terri’s family. It has its ups and downs, but it’s always interesting, especially with the grandkids. In other words, it’s family.
Then, there are friends. It began by riding my bike over the hill to Jerry’s house to play ball, or playing with my cousins. But over the years, friends became more important. They were there in the good times, and made them better. But, more importantly, they were there in the bad times, offering support, and helping however they could. Yes, friends are an important part of my story.
And family and friends play an important role in the most important part of my story – my faith. My parents made sure that I knew that church was important. They set the example for me by attending on a regular basis, and made sure I was there, too. At Bethabara United Methodist Church, I heard the Bible stories and learned about Jesus. This laid the groundwork for what would come later, and the impact that friends would have on my faith.
It would be a friend, Karry Godwin, who would ask me one night at a youth revival back in 1972 the direct question, “Are you a Christian?” (A friend can get away with doing that.) That night, sitting in the gym at Midway High School, that then eighteen year old made a life transforming decision to accept Jesus as his Savior and Lord. While attending East Carolina, there were Christian friends and organizations who helped guide me as I started my new journey of faith. Along the way, there were Christian friends in Lumberton, Laurinburg, Charlotte, and here in Clinton, who were there for me during this journey, and are part of my story. I just hope that in their own journey, I have also somehow been there for them.
It’s a long story, but it’s all good now. The truth is that it’s never all good for any of us. There will always be something. It may be a physical problem, a family situation, work, finances, whatever. For me, yes, it is not all good. But it’s good. I’m blessed. And it all flows out of that life changing decision I made at that youth revival back in 1972. And that’s what has also enabled me to deal with all the not so good stuff along the way.
By the way, my story may be long, but it’s not over. I’m pretty sure there are a few more chapters left before the end. You also have chapters left in your story, whether they are many, or just a few. How will they be written? Maybe it’s time to make a decision.
Mac McPhail, raised in Sampson County, lives in Clinton and can be reached at [email protected]