I’m speaking at a retreat for some high school girls this weekend and was asked to share some of my life story… to show how God is uniquely using me to bring Himself glory…
I wanted to post a modified version of what I’m going to share.
It feels kind of silly, but as I reflect on my own life I really feel as though I have little to share.
Imagine that you’re putting a puzzle together… you know how you dump all of the pieces out on the table and many of them are flipped upside down, and backwards, and none of it seems to make sense? So far it’s just a big mess of pieces. I guess sometimes I feel like my life is one giant puzzle that I’m looking at… the only difference being that I don’t have the box with the big picture on it. So right now, I’m standing at this place in life, on one piece of this gigantic puzzle that doesn’t make any sense and I can’t figure out what other pieces it connects to… If I look to my right I can see where other pieces have started fitting together, which is helping the picture to become a little clearer, but to my left, is still a large messy pile of pieces and I don’t know where they belong.
Let me share with you some of the pieces of my puzzle that I have already seen pieced together in my life. I suppose I should start with the basics and tell you that I grew up in a loving family that pushed me to love Jesus and enabled me to grow in a relationship with God and His Son. I learned to thrive at church and summer camps, and found many of my best friends at church. Of course, it helps that I have a very outgoing, attention-driven personality, especially in junior high, and I would often find myself wanting to be immersed in various ministries at church. Over time, I was slowly being molded and finding in myself that my heart was being pulled to ministry. With that said, even up until my senior year of high school, I really didn’t know what it was I wanted to do in life. When I was really little, I wanted to be a veterinarian… mostly because I loved animals. I think really I just always wanted something to take care of. Then later, I thought it would be great to be a teacher. I think I wanted to be able to help people learn things. Although, looking back, I genuinely think that I really just wanted to be able to hold a red pen and circle lots of mistakes on other peoples’ papers. And then I realized that becoming a teacher would mean going to more school (college) just to be in school for the rest of my life… no way! During my senior year of high school, through an opportunity I had to take a class for our morning announcements, it became more concrete to me that I almost enjoyed speaking in front of people, as well as playing with electronics and editing video and being on a computer all the time. I learned that I love seeing results and get excited when I am able to create something that is visually pleasing. And, as I’ve said before, I absolutely loved being at church. I took several opportunities to step into leadership roles for small groups along with leading mission trips, and all of this started to confirm in me that I was meant to be a part of ministry… to help create disciples for Christ, and I really wanted to be a role model for younger girls.
So… all in all…
When it came time to choose a college, I started to realize that I wanted one that had a strong communications program (because I thought it would be a great career to be in broadcasting or video editing), but I also wanted it to have the possibility to get even more involved in ministry programs (specifically youth ministry). And in my mind, the two of these weren’t that far off from each other, because I saw great value in improving my communication skills and technological skills for the purpose of ministry.
I think I made that all sound like a picnic in a park, but there really have been some seriously challenging pieces of my life puzzle. When I went to college in the fall after my senior year of high school, I felt like I was on top of the world. I was finally leaving my family and stepping out on this journey of independence, I had lots of friends and several of my closest girlfriends since childhood were going to the same college as me, and I had a boyfriend that told me we would eventually be getting married… after college, of course. (Shoot, what was four years, right?) I may have felt like I had everything together in life, but in the next few years, God was going to start tearing down different walls in my life in order to get me to walk a path closer to His heart. Like I said earlier, sometimes we’re standing on one piece of the puzzle and just can’t see any logical place for it to fit with the big picture.
During my freshman year of college, my boyfriend eventually decided that he didn’t like me and that our relationship wasn’t going to go any further. I don’t mean for this to turn into a sappy story, by any means, but this jolted my entire understanding of who I was and where I was going in life. I may not have said this to many people, but in my mind, I just had to make it through college, and then after that I was getting married to this boy, and that was all that was going to matter. So when this was ripped away from me, I was brought to my knees in utter confusion. I think parts of me wanted to be angry at God… I was confused about who I was or where I was going in life. I didn’t understand my purpose anymore. This was also a time in life where I started to find out about a lot of deep painful issues that were going on in my family… that had been going on for a long time… that almost everyone in my family knew about except for me. I can’t give you more details than that… not just because I don’t want to talk about it, but really because even now I don’t fully know or understand the details of those issues… I just know that I felt like I no longer had anyone around me that I knew anymore.
Everything and everyone closest to me in my life felt like a lie.
Even back at college, I had similar situations where friends just stopped inviting me to join their group activities, and I had to struggle through understanding why I wasn’t enough, or was too much, or what was really going on. As much as I have always loved being around people, these different roadblocks on my path in life were bringing me to a point where I was really questioning who I was… or who I was supposed to be… or who I even wanted to be. And just because I went to a “Christian” college, doesn’t mean that I always wanted to be there. My “Christian life” stopped being a desire of who I wanted to be, and slipped into a daily “routine” of who I was supposed to be. I got to a point where I was no longer excited about going to church, too exhausted to find a ministry, worn out from classes and uninterested in opening my Bible. This went on long enough that without realizing it, I ended up failing all of my classes my first semester of my senior year of college. I just stopped caring for a while. Because of this, I needed to go back to college for one final semester after my senior year, and it was during this time in my life that I experienced the tragic loss of one of my best friends in a car accident. This was another time of deep pain in my life… not out of anger at God… rather, just a sadness in knowing that this beautiful person was no longer in my life. I’m looking forward to spending eternity in Heaven with her though, and hope that she knows what kind of influence she has had on my life. God used this time in my life to kick my heart back into gear and remind me how precious my life really is… to remind me that other people are watching how I approach life even when I don’t know it. You see, my friend Janet taught me what it looked like to love other people with the same unconditional, patient love that Christ did. When she talked about Jesus you could see in her eyes that she knew Him… and that she continually desired to know Him more.
I’m thankful that I’ve always had friends placed strategically in my life to not only lift me up out of those dark places of hurt and confusion, but to also remind me who was ultimately in control… that God was greater than myself and even though this piece of my puzzle didn’t make any sense in the moment, God was the one holding the big picture and He knew right where it was going to fit in with the rest of my pieces. You see… the key to the puzzle is not in knowing what the big picture is, or where your current piece is going to fit with the rest of the puzzle… the key is in knowing who is in control of the pieces.
God is continually working on my life and if I’m to be completely honest, I still don’t know what exactly I’m supposed to do in life, or what I’m supposed to be “when I grow up.” But I do know that I don’t want to be the one trying to fit the pieces together in my life puzzle, because that gets so draining. I want to let God be in control so that my picture can come together with as much of His beauty as possible.