Do you remember the scene in “My Best Friend’s Wedding” where Julia Roberts hijacks a delivery truck and is chasing her best friend Dermot Mulroney, who is chasing his fiancee Cameron Diaz? Because she has finally come clean to him that she loves him and wants to be with him – just hours before his wedding to Cameron Diaz. And Cameron sees Julia kiss him and takes off. So he starts chasing Cameron, which upsets Julia because she expected his declaration of love. In the middle of the chaos, Julia calls her editor, who makes a hard point – “who’s chasing you?”
She’s so busy chasing Dermot, so focused on catching him and getting her way, that she fails to see the truth. He didn’t stay with her. He started chasing Cameron. Immediately. Without hesitation. With purpose and passion.
And the realization that he truly loves Cameron is hard. Because she has to accept that she has had ten years and many opportunities but didn’t take her chance. And now the moment has passed. She is chasing a possibility that isn’t available to her. She has created a life and a future in her imagination that is literally running away from her. She is chasing a ghost.
And I realized I was close to doing the same thing. Again. I’ve spent twenty years chasing a memory of a college friend, trying to bring it into my reality, because I remember the sweet girl who cried with me over something hard. So it did not surprise me that as I planned to go to Murfreesboro for the weekend how I kept thinking how close I would be to my friend. I could reach out and try to make contact. But then I would just be Julia Roberts, chasing a memory of someone who was my friend years ago. Someone who humored me with a quick conversation when I found her every few years but who otherwise never kept in touch. Someone who called me unevolved and angry and then unfriended me from Facebook. Someone who changed her phone number and moved without telling me.
Yet my first instinct was to try to make contact. And I have to wonder why I would continue to chase her. It has been twenty years of my Julia running after her Dermot for a relationship that was from another time and another place. And I could continue to chase her, but I would be chasing someone who doesn’t want to be a part of my life. I would be running after someone who isn’t looking back.
So I didn’t. Granted, it’s a lot easier to make the decision with only one possible means of communication available. But I could have tried. And I might have, if I had not realized that I was insisting on reliving a sweet memory in the present it when it is clearly anchored in the past.
And Jesus has advice for me in these moments. When He was preparing His disciples to go out, He gave them specific instructions: “11 “Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. 12 And when you go into a household, greet it. 13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 11:11-14).
How is this applicable, you ask? He is reminding the disciples that there are places they will want to be but they may not be welcome. In those moments, don’t linger. Don’t long to be accepted. Don’t wallow and be wistful. If you are welcome, great. If you are not welcome, move on. Don’t chase the ghost of what you think you think you want or think is right when everything is telling you otherwise.
Lot’s wife didn’t get it. As she and her family are being dragged out of the city, they are told something specific – “… Do not look behind you …” (Genesis 19:17). Don’t turn around and long for the corrupt city that God is about to destroy. Don’t linger on the compromising life you were leading that kept you from your best relationship with God. Don’t look back and wish for something that would never love you into fulfillment. Instead, look forward. God is saving you. God is sparing you. God is showering you with grace instead of brimstone. Appreciate that. Worship Him. But she couldn’t let go of her life in Sodom, so she “… looked back behind …”, her desire to be in the city instead of being grateful obvious. God knew, “… and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:26).
She was chasing the ghost of her happiness. Julia was chasing the ghost of unrequited love. And I was chasing the ghost of a long-lost friendship. We all wanted something that we decided would make us happy – but none of it was ours to have.
So I can keep chasing the ghost of a friend from my early years. Or I can give her the space she demands and walk away with my sweet memories. So I choose to “shake off the dust” and trust God to help me remember the good times with a smile. Which means I didn’t make contact, nor will I. I can accept this season for what it is while appreciating the former seasons for what they taught me and brought me.
So do you have a ghost you are chasing? Do you have a longing in your eye for something unworthy of you? Are you holding onto something from the past that is keeping you from fully embracing the present? Then it’s time to stop. It’s time to let go. It’s time to move on. It’s time to say “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” to chase ghosts or linger in the past (Psalm 23:1). So let’s stop running after our ghosts. Let’s keep our ghosts where they belong and chase God instead.
Marie Fremin. 2/19/17, 3/3, 3/4/17