Heather Marshall on August 29th, 2008

My family was in town a few weeks ago on vacation, and my mother brought with her boxes of “stuff” she’d packed up from my old room at her house. (She decided she needed room for a long-arm quilter, so it was time I officially “moved out.”) Of course, my first reaction was, “Throw it out, Mom! Throw it ALL out! I don’t have room for it in my apartment!!” But, I took the boxes and just Wednesday began to sort through them all. I came across some GREAT memories… a tiny “Bayonne” pendant from my high school years, my college yearbook, a karaoke recording (in TAPE format!!) of my friends and I singing “It’s Gonna Be Me” by NSYNC (hilarious!!), and several collages that I’d made in college.

As I looked at the collages of my college friends, I was reminded of what a great group of friends God had blessed me with there. They were such strong, encouraging Christians in the midst of a secular campus. The pictures woven throughout these collages showed us at Creation ‘01, hanging out at the beach after finals, working on service projects, or chilling in each others’ dorm rooms. All wonderful memories of wonderful friends.

My other collages brought a mixture of happy memories and deep, deep sadness. I had 2 collages of my friends from “back home” that I had grown up with. From the time I was 5 years old, I did EVERYTHING with these girls! The pictures in these collages showed our road trips to Boston, youth group retreats, New Year’s Day parties, sleepovers, annual Easter Sunday pictures, and so many more wonderful memories. As I remember the good times, it also breaks my heart to think that I am no longer friends with two that were the nearest and dearest to my heart.

What happened? Well, it was not a sudden departure of friendship. And it was not a case of simply moving away (even though I eventually did)… What ended our friendship went deeper, into the heart of what each of us were striving for, and what course we were running.

After high school, I went away to college. It was only 2 hours from home, so I was able to come home often. During that first year, I came home often and spent a lot of time with those friends, who were staying local. Over the years I came home less and less, but still hung out with them whenever I was home. I noticed changes in both of them, but then again - I had changed too! What I didn’t want to see, though, is that I had changed by growing closer to God. Serving Him and living for Him was my #1 priority. THEY had changed by becoming bitter at the church we grew up in, bitter towards Christianity in general, and more worldly in their talk and behavior.

I moved to Ocean City permanently after graduation in 2003, but still kept in contact with my friends from “home.” In fact, I was in my one friend’s wedding shortly after that! I was so happy for her and her new hubby, who was also one of my dearest friends. I so hoped that they would be such a great Christian couple, even though deep down I realized that our courses were changing.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that something would have to give. My friends were starting to veer away from church (not just our church, but ANY church) and towards more worldly pursuits. My conservative friends were now starting to order alcoholic drinks with their dinners when we would hang out. I realized that I had to make a choice - either join them, or leave them.

Praise God, He opened my eyes in time. Looking at their lives now, I thank God every day that I made the choice to serve God, not my friends. After all, No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24) I feared that if I hung around with them, I would end up despising God.

Unfortunately, I was right - about them!

I unofficially severed our friendship, although the rift that had formed between us was already great and noticeable. Through my sister-in-law and others who knew them, I loosely kept ties with them. They were frequenting bars, cursing like truck drivers (no offense to truck drivers who don’t curse!), and bad-mouthing those friends and family members who chose to do things God’s way. Including those of us who were striving wholeheartedly to be women (and eventually wives) after God’s own heart.

As I sat looking at those collages, I began to think about what my life would be like had I not ended those friendships. I certainly would not be married to my husband, because we became friends and fell in love over the course of years of serving in ministry together! I certainly would not even be living in beautiful Ocean City, because I only moved here to be close to the church I love and the Christian school I was going to teach at.

My heart breaks for the friendships that I lost, but more for the souls of those girls who I still love dearly. They used to be on fire for God! I remember when we would pray with each other when one of us was hurting or in need. I remember them sharing their insight at a youth retreat, and vowing to serve God more fully. I remember singing next to them in choir, so excited when I switched from soprano to alto, so I could stand next to them during cantata’s. They were running a GREAT race! Who cut in on them and kept them from obeying the Truth? (Galatians 5:7)

Somewhere, they got off course… got tripped up…. and are now heading in the wrong direction. What is God going to say when they cross the wrong finish line?

I know that it is NOT too late for them! It’s NEVER too late for anyone! The Holy Spirit happens to be GREAT at directions, and can get anyone on track again. But first…. you have to recognize if you are off course or not!

Here are some key questions to ask yourself, to see if you are running the right course:

  1. Are your eyes fixed on Jesus? Is He the mark you’ve set your course for? (see Hebrews 12:2)
  2. Are you trying to win an earthly prize (success, wealth, fame, happiness) or a heavenly prize (hearing God say to you, “Well done, my good and faithful servant”)? (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8)
  3. Are you surrounded by people who are lovers of God or mammon (wealth, worldly desires)? (see Matthew 6:33)
  4. Are you often unhappy, even though the course seems easy? Or are you joyful, even though the way is often rough? (see James 1:2-4)
  5. Have you come across roadblocks and U-turn signs in the form of Pastors, family members, friends, things you read or see, or your conscience (the Holy Spirit) telling you to get back (or stay) on course? (see John 14:26)

Are you off course? Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to direct you back where you belong. Is your husband off course? It’s not up to you to bring him back, but you can be a U-turn sign for him! Pray for him, strive to live a holy life, and wait on God’s timing. Do you have a friend who is off course? Pray for her, be an example, and wait on the Holy Spirit.

I’m not sure if these former friends will ever venture onto this site and read what I wrote, but if they do, I must say this: I love you dearly, still, regardless of how, when, or why our friendship ended. I pray for you often, and I hope that you will heed the Holy Spirit’s call in your life to get back on the right track. When that happens, I will gladly run alongside you, helping you to run this race even when it gets difficult.

To my newer friends who read this blog: Keep on striving! Keep on course! Do not turn to the left or to the right (Deuteronomy 28:14), but keep your eyes on your goal - Christ!!

Please, feel free to leave your stories, prayer requests, struggles, or triumphs in the comment form below!

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  3. Two Weeks ‘Til Christmas!!
  4. Striving For the Goal….
  5. Lost That Lovin’ Feeling?

4 Responses to “What Happens When You Change Course?”

  1. Oh Heather - I read your blog with tears in my eyes. I am so thankful that you kept your eyes on JESUS and are serving HIM alongside your dear husband. I am going to pray for your two friends - that their hearts would once again soften and they would return to the LORD! I am going to share your blog with my Becki too! Thank you for your wise words Heather — you are an inspiration and a blessing! You’ve grown into such a Godly woman!

  2. I think it’s good to look back sometimes, to see where we’ve been, see where we could have gone, and thank God for where He has brought us.
    Keep your friends in prayer, God isn’t done with any of us yet.

  3. Heather I am so thankful for your testimony and I am thankful that you stood for righteousness.

  4. Hey Heather! I liked this post! Like you I had to make that hard decision to either join them or leave them and I to made that choice to follow my heart (Jesus)or as I say join the worldly things! Anyways honestly say I am finding out a lot from facebook, and those who encouraged me in my tough teen years to follow Christ and things have totally changed, and for lack of a better word I must say I have been totally sad about people profiles and pictures I guess the pictures have shocked me the most lately! Ahh I’m sorry if I rambled but to make along story short I remember making that decision too!

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