I have an odd relationship with the word “forever.”

When I was in high school, my first relationship had all the hallmarks of young love. It was new, exciting, tumultuous and occasionally kept me up at nights. A few years in, I found myself in an especially trying time. We were both changing and growing, but I was the one still holding tight to the relationship I’d become very comfortable with and accustomed to. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but I remember bawling my eyes out before bed one night when — clear as day — “It’s supposed to last forever” came to mind. It was as though someone was kneeling next to my bed and talking to me. My mind was quieted, my heart was calmed and I fell asleep. I assumed I’d just received God’s confirmation that this would be the dude of all dudes for me, and that I should stop fretting. Not so much.

We eventually broke up, but it turns out it did last forever: he’s one of my best friends to this day. For this reason, “forever” is a funny word to me — funny in that it calls into question other seemingly permanent words.

When couples say their vows, does “till death do us part” literally mean death? Or could it perhaps mean the death of something? Perhaps the death of any desire to be married? Depressing to consider, but such is the way my brain works.

Back in February, I had a thyroid biopsy; twelve needles found their way into my neck over the course of about 30 minutes. When I’m going through a tough time (like my day o’ needles), I tend to get through situations by telling myself to relax, that I won’t die and that it “won’t last forever.” But what if the day comes when I know my end is seconds or minutes away? True, I can tell myself that XYZ won’t last forever, but the kicker is that when it stops, my last breath will be gone. Depressing again.

Some words aren’t what they seem, and forever is one of them. The only word I don’t really question is “infinity,” thanks to the lovely visual illustration of a sideways eight, resting lazily from here to eternity. How do you visually show “forever”? How do you visually show “always,” “never” and “promise”? Knowing that these words are often broken or proven wrong makes any illustration to try to prove their permanence seem pointless. All we can do is hope for the best if they meet our ears, and be ready for any variation of their meaning.

Tonight I am thankful for knowing that a sprinkling of reality is an essential pairing with any word that implies permanence, and an understanding of that word’s ability to change meaning over time is crucial to our sanity. I never would’ve guessed that “it’s supposed to last forever” would end up meaning what it did, but knowing how things turned out makes me a big believer in things happening for a reason, and exactly as they should…exactly as He thinks they should.

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