Twenty years ago, June 6th, I donned a white cotton dress and white pumps, put on my white cap and gown and flung a golden cord around my neck. It was about 95 humid and smelly degrees in the carpeted gym that was crowded with people there to witness our milestone - graduation from high school.
That night, I was filled with many emotions. I'd been with the same group of peers since the tender age of four, and I wasn't in a hurry to leave them. We had become family. I also had quite a bit of excitement and nervous anticipation about the next chapter of my life. I'm certain it was the most conflicted I had been, EVER. The FUTURE and my potential to accomplish much was an intoxicating combination. Overwhelmingly, I wanted this: to make a difference.
If I could go back, I wouldn't. I wouldn't inform my seventeen year old self of all the sweet (and bitter) lessons that only the years could teach me. I wouldn't change anything because each of my missteps and hard falls and successes have been woven in now, and are part of my story. And God is going to keep working it together for my good, and His glory.
So off I went, to explore the world, experience life on "my own." And I was determined above all that I was going to make a difference, fight dragons, be a strong woman, experience exotic adventures, be used by God.
And time flew by. Twenty years later, here's what I'm beginning to see:
I'm learning that sometimes making a difference is just about plodding
along, clinging to the hope that God will accomplish the good. I can't do it anyway, because I am completely empty. Not "completely empty" in a
nice shiny sermon illustration kind of way, but in the
sitting-on-the-laundry-room-floor-hiding-and-crying-that-ugly-cry-again kind of way. I'm beginning to see that it's more about how God makes a difference in me and less about my claim to world-changing powers. I need continual overhauls.
Most recently, I'm breaking up with the idea of "control" but that is another post for another day.
My expectations have been my biggest dragon to fight. I have learned that not all calls are glory and spotlight. That the place God uses me is His call, not mine. That call to "full time ministry" I thought I had in high school? It ended up being more about how I wanted people to see me then, and in my imaginary future, and less about how I wanted to be before God. I've been fighting dragons, all right, but not how I thought I would!
Being a strong woman is a noble aspiration. Women have been greatly used by God many times through the Bible and history. In my youth, I rolled my eyes many times at the "delicate flowers" that adorned the pages of novels, or were held up as model Christian women (and OK I still do, a little bit...and sometimes, maybe a lot). But strength is not what I thought it was either. I am strong not because of who I am, or what I have the right to accomplish, or even what I have the grit to endure.I don't have any of those things without Him.
Exotic adventures? I don't even have a passport. Maybe sometime in the NEXT twenty years. 😊 I have had some pretty great domestic adventures, and I'm enjoying the story God is writing! It's much better for me than anything I could have come up with! But to many, I'm sure my life just looks pretty ordinary.
Sometimes, in fact, MOST of the time, being used by God looks very ordinary. Ordinary like going to work and doing the job faithfully. Ordinary like preparing lesson plans. Or doing laundry, or feeding hungry little and big people, again, or smiling at a stranger, or being a friend. Or crying out to God on the laundry room floor asking Him to increase your faith. And watching Him do it.
You know, I changed my mind. I would tell my seventeen year old self something. I would tell her not to underestimate the ordinary. I would tell her that if she continues in it, patient in hope, that the beauty in the ordinary will absolutely take her breath away.
Happy 20th anniversary on my graduation to me, and the entire class of 1997. It's been a really quick, sometimes agonizing, mostly good, really ordinary twenty years.