That’s how my unsent text message read – “hey stranger.” I paused momentarily, considering whether sending this text was a good idea. I decided it wasn’t, but I did it anyway. As I hit send, “hey stranger” transformed into an ominous blue text box hovering over the word “delivered.” My words were no longer simply evidence of contemplation – that is, they were not simply black letters in a text bar waiting to be sent. I robbed them of the option that they may become one of those “I’ve thought about sending this forever” texts. Their existence as they knew it was over; and, yet, somehow their life had just begun.
“Hey stranger” is one of those phrases that truly doesn’t make sense. When you walk down the street and someone in front of you drops their wallet, you don’t yell “hey stranger! You dropped your wallet!” You yell, “Ma’am! I think you dropped your wallet!” If a true stranger approached me and began our interaction with the words “hey stranger,” I think I’d turn and run.
“Hey stranger,” then, is a phrase reserved for someone we know. Someone we have formerly interacted with – someone who is certainly not a stranger. I find this a little peculiar, but simultaneously endearing and accurate. These two simple words seem to be a perfect greeting for someone you know, but may have drifted from. It’s sums up the “I know you but we haven’t really talked, so do I actually know you?” fear. It forwardly acknowledges the state two people are in.
In this case, my “stranger” was a boy named Carter who I was once involved with. We never dated, and it wasn’t serious in any definite terms, but I did really care for him. At the time, though, I was moving to New Jersey to start boarding school, and he was living in Delaware. An 80 mile drive was a culture shock to our small-town selves who lived only two blocks apart. So, as we naturally began to talk less and less, our “relationship” ended.
I saw Carter around town occasionally – it’s pretty hard not to when there’s only one neighborhood. Or, at least I thought it was pretty hard, until two years ago when I stopped seeing him at all. I haven’t seen Carter since the summer of 2017, which is oddly impressive considering we live so close to each other.
When it dawned on me how long it’s been since we’ve talked, I was pretty upset. But, truthfully, I hadn’t thought about him during all that time. So why was I upset now? It felt like the realization of how long it had been shocked me into realizing how much I missed him. I also felt like I knew nothing about him – like he was a stranger. And yet, I still felt as though I knew him down to his core. I knew his heart, and thus he was not a true “stranger” at all.
So, out of impulse, I decided I wanted to text him. As I held my iPhone, I could feel my hands sweating on to my silicone card holder. I was nervous. What if he barely remembered me? What if I don’t know him anymore?
I clicked open the Messages app, and my fingers hesitantly typed “Carter” in the “to” box. I began to type, unsure of exactly what to say. I landed on “hey stranger” – feeling like maybe calling him a stranger would soften the blow if he treated me like one.
I truly didn’t think he would reply. I expected my blue text box to exist, lonely, on a blank white screen forever – no grey text boxes accompanying it to validate its existence. But, much to my surprise, he did reply.
What I came to learn throughout our conversation was that, in a way, nothing had changed. I almost felt as if he had been in my life all this time, I just couldn’t always see him. Yeah, we didn’t talk for two years, but he still knew me, and not just on a surface level.
Carter really knew me. Even after two years with some distance between us, he knew me. And I knew him. I was always in his life, too, we just didn’t have our eyes fixed on each other during that time period. I was terrified of hitting send on that initial message. I thought since we hadn’t talked I lost him. I thought he would say I waited too long to text, or that I would have to “earn him back.”
But nothing could be further from the truth. I hadn’t lost him at all, and he expected nothing of me. All it took to begin talking again was just starting a conversation. It was as simple as hitting send. Just reaching out to say “hey stranger.”
In March of last year, I was faced with a very difficult decision. The words “hey stranger” were once again looming over me. Part of me really wanted to hit send, but the other part was so so scared.
After all, I hadn’t talked to this person in years. Similarly to with Carter, I didn’t even realize I was missing him until I was confronted head on with his presence. I wondered if I had ever really known this person at all? Was it true that they knew me? I felt so guilty for the things I had done to tear apart our relationship, and I was crippling under the weight of feeling like I had to earn their love. I was terrified. But I hit send.
Last March, I said “hey stranger” to Jesus. I hit send on restarting our relationship; I said yes to a life with him. But I should make it clear – saying yes was not the moment that Jesus came into my life. He was always there, I just couldn’t always see him because my eyes were fixed somewhere else. Just like with Carter, I put off hitting send for so long because I thought I was already too late. The thing with Christ, though, is that there is never a “right time” – there is now. And now is a perfect time to type out “hey stranger,” click send, and wait for that “delivered” message to appear.
Hitting send on your walk with Christ is life changing, and it was so scary just like hitting send to Carter was. But just as the letters on my screen were transformed, so was I. My existence as I knew it was over; and yet, somehow my life had just begun.
So, hey stranger! Yeah, you, right there! I hope you read this blog and walk away feeling like maybe you know me even just a little bit. And I hope, even if we have never met, you may click exit on this page feeling a little more known, too. After all, you are never a stranger to Christ.