The sun pierced my eyes as I watched my sister’s white Honda disappear down the driveway. Hot tears welled up. My big sister was gone—really gone. She had left for college and deserted me, her twelve-year-old sister. My tears now erupted into full-blown sobs. How long would it be until I saw her again? Days? Weeks? Possibly months? To be fair, her college dormitory was only thirty minutes away. But as far as I was concerned, Michelle might as well have been a million miles away.
Facing Being “Alone.” Even now, at forty years old, I remember how plagued I was by loneliness and despair after Michelle left for college. One week she and I were choreographing dance moves to the latest music and hanging out at the pool with her friends. The next week she had packed up all her clothing and moved out. My sister was on to bigger and better things without me. Just don’t forget about me, I thought.
Michelle had made our life fun and adventurous. By day we used to explore the woods, Michelle telling me ghost stories while leaves and twigs cracked under our feet. At night she would make us a special late-night snack of buttered cinnamon toast. With Michelle I had always found safety and companionship. She had been available to help me with homework and important school projects. Most of all, I missed our talks, her wise advice, and the way we laughed about everything.
I just missed her, plain and simple. Many nights I cried about it until my eyes were as puffy as cotton balls. My young, dramatic self couldn’t have felt more alone. Just don’t forget about me. The thought just wouldn’t leave me.
Expanding My Circle. The first few months after Michelle left were tough. But as time slowly ticked by, something truly remarkable happened. I changed. As I was forced to depend on myself more, I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. And that’s when the most important transformation took place. I learned to depend on God in a deeper way, even as a middle school student. I had always gone to church, and I knew I loved Jesus. But this was the start of a practical, everyday dependency on the Lord as my new closest companion.
Because I didn’t have my sister to occupy me, I began to talk to God more earnestly. I started reading my dusty Bible more consistently, letting the words penetrate my mind and heart. My prayer life began to flourish. And despite my feelings of abandonment early on, the Lord showed me that I wasn’t alone. He was with me the whole time. My parents and some good friends from church and school also pulled me through trying moments. Perhaps most special of all, God blessed me with an enthusiasm for writing, and a treasured correspondence between me and Michelle developed. That passion for writing continues to this day.
Slowly, the refrain in my mind, Just don’t forget about me, became softer and softer. And one day the thought became so faint that it lost all hold on my life. I was becoming more secure without Michelle and learning how to trust God as a friend, which I’ve come to realize the Lord wants to be for me at every stage of my life.
Welcome in God’s House. There was one clear moment when I really needed a friend’s comforting arms. It was a sunny day, and my classmate was passing out birthday invitations. I sat waiting for Elizabeth to make her way to my wooden desk to hand me one of the little pink envelopes. Sadly, there was no envelope for me, and I realized that I wasn’t invited to the celebration. The day seemed a lot less sunny after that.
All I wanted was to share my hurt and embarrassment with Michelle, but after supper it was time to leave for church. I prayed silently while riding in the car with my parents. Since I couldn’t talk to my sister, I poured out my heart to the Lord. I expressed how disappointed I was and shed a few silent tears. But I felt more at peace after praying.
We walked into church and settled down in the dimly lit sanctuary. That night, to my surprise, our pastor talked about how we are all welcome at God’s table. Everyone is included, and no one is left out or not invited.
I listened intently and knew without a doubt that this was the Lord’s message to me. It was as if God himself were giving me the warmest, sweetest hug. It assured me that as holy and mighty as God is, he cares about my feelings. This made a lasting impression on me. As an adult, I still remember that in moments of heartache or loss, I can count on the Lord to be with me.
Never Alone or Forgotten. In many ways, I have Michelle and her college departure to thank for the deepening of my relationship with the Lord. I didn’t know it as I watched her drive away that day, but she never planned to forget about me or leave me behind. And I’m so grateful that my heavenly Father won’t either.
To this day, I carry the lessons from that period of time inside me. As a Christian, I was never meant to live life solo but to live in relationship with the triune God who is himself a beautiful community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Regardless of the availability of my sister or friends or anyone else for that matter, the Lord is here and always will be. I know for sure that he was—and still is—with me every second of the way. He will never leave me to face my hardships alone.
Alisha Ritchie writes from Charlotte, North Carolina.