Growing up is such a tough thing. We are not patient enough with our kids, perhaps because we do not remember what it was like to be one. Think about it. A baby comes into the world trusting and dependent. Over the next few years of her life she must learn that the world is not a trustworthy place. Gravity is a force to be reckoned with. Brothers and sisters pick on her. She never gets to do what she wants to do because “Mama said so.”
Then as she gets older, people start telling her the truth. “You aren’t as good at coloring as Robby,” or “Kayla is prettier than you.” She learns that she really isn’t a rockstar and the things that were cute when she was little aren’t so cute anymore. She has chores. She has homework. Bullies run the playground, and there are rules to be followed.
As a high schooler she struggles with self-esteem and comparison. Joe asked her best friend to the prom instead of her. She didn’t make the basketball team. Kyle dumped her for another girl. In eighteen years of life, think of all the lessons learned and the disappointments felt.
However, in all the stages of my life, I have not experienced as much personal growth as these past three months. As I was driving down the road yesterday, I was marveling at the change that has taken place inside of me recently, and unfortunately, I can’t take any credit for it. It has been God at work behind the scenes of my life.
I have learned that we humans are extremely complex creatures. There is more depth to us than we will ever know. In all the searching and examination I have done of my thoughts and feelings, I have found many gray areas where I am not aware of what the truth is. If someone were to ask me why I went to the college I did, I’m not sure I could say honestly. If someone asked me to evaluate how I feel about certain things in my past, I could not give a clear answer. I was watching a video lecture yesterday for class about body language and I’m fairly certain that if I were to take a lie detector test about myself, I would probably fail in some areas. No one knows me better than myself, yet I could lie about a personal issue when I believe I am telling the truth. That is complex if you ask me.
However, I believe there is Someone who knows me better than I know myself, and that is God. He is my Creator. He knows how He put me together. He understands how I am wired, and He sees me. In ways that I will never understand, God enters into the deepest parts of us and works within us even when we are unaware. We may think that we are in a dry time in life, and nothing seems to be going anywhere. We may wonder where God is. I believe it is in these times especially that He is much closer than we realize. He is healing and changing us in deep and lasting ways.
There is one area of life that God has been redeeming for longer than I was aware. Ever since I was in junior high, I was very aware of my insecurity. I hated the way I looked, and pretty much everything about me. I was completely obsessed with other peoples’ opinions about me to the point where I really did not have much of a personal identity. I had no hobbies I truly enjoyed. I had skills, but I had no interest in doing anything with them. I did not believe in myself enough to do more than what I believed what expected of me. Whether it was my parents, a boss, a professor, or a friend, if they did not overwhelmingly support me in a decision, it would tear me apart inside. I constantly wanted and was trying to be something else. I had an ideal in my mind, and I was pursuing it with all my might.
This way of life was by far the worst in college. There was a guy I liked all through college, but I never believed I measured up. He was never interested in me, and therefore I believed I was trash. Instead of becoming someone worth knowing, I believed that I intrinsically wasn’t, and beat myself up over it every day. Sure there were things that I wanted to be and I did some pretty outlandish things while I was there, like living in a couple countries, working at Mount Rushmore, and going to Africa. However, personally, I was an empty shell covered with a gigantic mask of everything that I wanted people to believe about me. I had a few close friendships, but I was so lost trying to discover who I was. People ask me a lot if I enjoyed college. My answer has always been adamantly, “No.” It’s not the college’s fault; those were just the worst four years of my life. It was a necessary struggle, but rather embarrassing to look back on.
When I graduated, I landed a job on the other side of campus at College Church. This was a fantastic job, and it was a great transition from college into adult life. It was my first full-time job (besides seasonal stuff) and I grew some in my spiritual life. However, the insecurities were still there. With every project I did, especially if it was a Spanish project, I was overcome by fear that I would fail miserably and bring shame to our office. I did not take very many risks, and I was depressed much of the time. Especially this past spring and summer, I felt like a major part of me was dying inside. I needed a change. I couldn’t handle it anymore. Little did I know that the feelings I was having weren’t of inner death, but rather a part of me that was starting to come to life.
Talk about one of the driest deserts I have ever walked through. I was super sick through this time as well, and the hopelessness that I felt was intense. It was out of these ashes that I found myself in Detroit visiting some family and reevaluating the life that I was living. It certainly was not a bad life. However, God had something else in store for me. In just a few short minutes, something deep inside of me somehow knew that I was going to move to Nashville, Tennessee and begin a Masters program. I didn’t even know what school I was going to attend yet. I just knew that was what I had to do. That’s kind of a random realization to have, but I went with it.
I don’t care what anyone says, that was a big move. At the beginning of July, I came back to work and started planning a trip to Nashville to look for a job. Before I left to visit, I applied and was accepted to Trevecca and put in my three-weeks’ notice at work. August 24th, I moved to Nashville. I still did not have a job. I had several interviews, but nothing set in stone. I was offered a low-paying job, and I turned it down without complete assurance that I would have the job I have now. For a month and a half, I was unemployed and totally stressed out. However, God was doing an incredible work in my heart, and although I was concerned about my job situation, I had a peace that I was doing exactly what He wanted me to do.
I have been working at my current job for almost two months now. It is amazing to me all that can happen in such a short time.
I was driving down the road yesterday when it suddenly dawned on me that I am a completely different person now than I used to be. In three quick months, God healed a big part of my heart. I realized that the insecurity that I had been battling for well over ten years was gone. I am a confident person now who stands tall and laughs hard. I can take risks. I can trust and I can love. I can make choices based on reason rather than emotion. I took a big risk, and God and I were successful together. I may have learned a lot of lessons about gravity and bullies when I was a kid, but this was the most significant growth that I believe I have ever done: becoming a full and engaging woman.
This morning we sang the song performed by Gungor “Beautiful Things”. As I was singing the words, “You make beautiful things out of the dust,” I reflected on the dust I was and how God is making something beautiful out of my life. The most significant line in that song is, “You are making me new”. I have always said that I believe my Creator did not stop creating in the beginning when He formed the oceans with His hand or placed the stars in the sky with His fingertips. He is constantly creating even now, taking us to places where we never believed we would be. This morning was testimony time, and the first speaker was a teenager who recently came to Christ. He said, “If you would have told me a year ago that today I would be standing in front of you all, calling myself a Christian and saying that I was thinking about going to college to be a missionary, I would have told you that you were absolutely insane.” I would say the same thing about where I am today. So much can change in such a short time. However, I am learning to delight in the Creator’s work, not only in my life, but in the lives of those around me. What a beautiful thing it is to see a life taken from the depths of despair and transformed into a life that is inspired to change the world. Who could do that but God? Twila Paris has a song called, “I Never Get Used To What You Do.” I completely agree with the chorus that says:
I never get used to what You do
I never get used to watching You
Take a life beyond redemption
Make it yours and make it new
I never outgrow the miracle
A heart that was empty flowing full
I never get used to what You do
God is always working. We are always growing up. We don’t stop developing when we graduate high school. The lessons are still learned, and God still searches the deep places of our heart to create in us a glorious picture of His grace. There is no life that is beyond His redemption, and He has proven it time and again. When we are truly honest with ourselves, we know that we are broken beyond our own ability to repair ourselves. However, God can take an empty heart and make it flow full of His love. I just never get used to watching my God. I never outgrow the miracle. Like a little kid looking up at the brilliant night sky, I stare in wonder at what He does. He makes beautiful things out of the dust, of out us. Lord, You are making me new!