When I was a child I would get hopeful for things to turn out a certain way. I would map out in my mind the perfect scenario of how life would be at each stage of my life. I distinctly remember in middle school having this thought that by 15 I’d be allowed to wear makeup. I thought I would look so pretty, and I’d have my first boyfriend. I imagined at 18 I would get asked to prom by a guy who really liked me. I imagined I’d be going off to the college of my dreams and obtaining a higher education. I imagined by 25 I’d be in a serious relationship while making decent money at a job I enjoyed. I imagined by 27 I’d be married with kids, and live in a house with a white picket fence and a beautiful garden. The keyword is imagined, and imagine I did, as none of these things came to pass. In fact, nothing I imagined in my mind as a child or hoped for has ever truly come to pass.
I would love to be vulnerable with all of you for a moment in hopes of perhaps giving you a little hope of your own. At 15 years old I was awkward and insecure. Not only did I not wear makeup, but I also did not talk to boys at all. My health was often under attack, stomach pain, blackout migraines, and depression. I was gearing up for a third surgery on my mouth at the end of the year, something I did not look forward to dealing with physically or mentally. I started high school under physical duress and finished my sophomore year having two additional oral surgeries. I transferred high schools in my junior year after two miserable years at a competitive all-girl high school. In my senior year, I got asked to prom last minute at track practice. He didn’t do anything cute, he asked me a week before in between one of his sprints through the fence separating the track from the parking lot. He ditched me after the dinner portion of the evening. I went to after prom for an hour by myself and then left pretty disappointed. When it came time to look at colleges, I had a specific place in mind, but I could not afford it, so I went to a local college and paid myself out of pocket, and lived at home. Although I did end up transferring to another college, it was not even close to what I imagined for myself. Again, I felt disappointed. I moved out of state briefly after college for three years, but at 25 I found myself moved back into my parents. I was essentially bedridden with illness, jobless, confused about my identity, my purpose, and my life. I was numb and alone. My relationships with my family were a disaster zone. My friends had all moved away. So there I stood at the edge of my own cliff to sort my life out on my own. At 27, I was working part-time and still living at home. I finally was pursued by someone in the thick of my healing process at the age of 28. He was the first man to see me when I felt invisible and useless to the world. It wasn’t the healthiest relationship, but we tried our best and since then have forgiven each other and recognize the good, the bad, and the ugly we each contributed to our relationship. Fast forward to today and I can honestly say I never had a dream come true, not a great career opportunity, not a dream marriage, not a dream home, nor children, a year without financial stress, nor a year without health issue. In fact, I would say it has been a long and winding road of disappointment and pain. It often felt like I poured my life out to others and the world around me, but the world did little to pour back into me. It reached a point where I could not blame God nor could I solely blame myself. It felt as though my disappointments were simply a result of poor timing and getting the weak genes in my family. God has felt distant to me most of my life. I did not see the point in wasting my time blaming some omnipotent being for my struggles, but rather I should find a way to survive in whatever way necessary. I needed to jump in a raft and let it simply take me downstream with the hopes of not hitting too many rocks.
Yet, today I can say through it all God has been there all along. Throughout the years I taught myself how to survive. I did this thing where I would smile and say hello to everyone around me no matter how I felt on the inside. I took a vested interest in seeing other people thrive. It was a fake it until you make it tactic, but it worked. My care for others grew and I had an insatiable hunger to pull people out of their pain and into a sweet spot of freedom. Jesus was the example I followed. I continued to pray for others and serve others when I could barely take care of myself. Yet, in giving away what little financial, physical, emotional, or spiritual currency I have, I have found the greatest levels of joy, hope, peace, and love one could ever fathom.
I may not have always felt His presence, but He has come to me both supernaturally in the quiet of the night ushering me into a sweet dream and through the random acts of kindness I have received from people along the way. There have been so many things that have been birthed out of my own valley of tears, anger, and ultimate grief that I believe I now get to share and gift the world. Over the past few years, my hunger and desperation for peace, hope, and love grew a healthy dependency on the Lord as my Father and best friend. The things of the world do not lure me away from His presence, but only push me closer. I no longer care what people think about me, and I am learning to develop my voice. My physical pain has increased my pain tolerance threshold higher than the average person. I can now work through things in life that do not feel good when others would quit. I can proudly say now that I am an overcomer. I have beat autoimmune disease with my simple yes to get out of bed every day and move! As the fruit of self-control was strengthened through this continual process rarely have I ever taken my pain and subjected it onto others. My empathy for others is deep and far-reaching as I have a unique perspective on pain and suffering in my walk of complete surrender to the Lord. I will never forget the day I went to visit a dear friend and I shouted out in a supernatural joy, “ I love my Job season!” I wanted to celebrate my battle scars. I found myself no longer wanting to hide them. We laughed so hard that day, it was worthy of celebration.
For everything I imagined that would go right in my life, I saw the wisdom in the refining process of my disappointment. The refining and maturing process the Lord has taken with me in the midst of my daily disappointments has created in me a queen like royalty, depth, and richness that no one on earth could ever take away. The compassion for the broken, the confidence in my identity, and the supernatural joy I have found in my nothingness would never have come to pass without the intensity of the obstacles that I have faced in my life. I recognize that none of us leave earth unscathed, some have it easier than others, and fewer leave with the transcendent clarity of their identity and purpose. As I reflect today on each of my disappointments big or small I cannot help but think of 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a (wo)man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” While our disappointments are many and I am sure there will be more to come, it is without a doubt God never leaves us and if we take the time to step outside of ourselves and see it as an opportunity to grow in maturity, character, and virtue there will never be another disappointment that we experience without winning, and for that, we should all be thankful.