Today, I am 28 years young. Birthdays have always been pretty important to me. I guess because it is a chance for people to let you know how significant you are. It’s important for everyone to feel significant. We all want to matter; we all want to feel noticed, wanted, needed, and I think deep down we all want to make an impact. I remember one time when I was a young teen, no one in my family told me happy birthday. I went through the day crushed that my own parents had forgotten the day of my birth. By the time I got home that day I was an emotional teen-girl mess. My mom told me happy birthday when she saw me, and apologized that things had been so busy she hadn’t been looking at the day. But I’m sure I was quite dramatic about it, and made her feel terrible. Bursting into tears, I lamented over how no one cared about me. I felt so wounded, so unnoticed, insignificant even.
Over the years, I have come to care less if other people remember, though it is nice when they do, and Facebook makes it easier, Amen? I no longer take it as a personal insult if the day is not full of well-wishing friends and family. In fact yesterday when my sister texted me about how she wasn’t going to be able to “make it,” I had to think for a while, and remember what she was talking about. Make it, to what? Did I miss something? We aren’t supposed to meet up till Sunday… is this part of a group text for something I wasn’t invited to, or does she have the wrong number? Then it dawned on me, oh, tomorrow is my birthday. We are supposed to have dinner. Wow, do I feel old now? No, canceled plans and memory lapses simply aren’t so hurtful anymore. What really makes my birthday significant to me is the time I spend reflecting on the impact I am having in this life. It’s a reality check for me, a time to inventory how I’m doing.
So my birthdays have become a lot less about what people are doing for me, and a lot more about what I am doing here. For the past few years, my birthday has brought up the thought, “I wonder how many years I have left.” I hope I have a long life ahead of me. I know I’m young yet to worry about that. It’s less of a worry though, and more of a musing. Besides, I have classmates that are already gone, and you never know, you really don’t.
I have often felt like I will be young (in years) forever. I know that’s not true, on this earth, youth will fade so quickly, as I’m told. I know there is a place I will be forever young, but I have really had to fight to hold onto the youth in my soul. I was always one of those really mature kids. My mom says I was born a little adult. I’ve been told a number of times that I am “wise beyond years.” I never really took it as a compliment; somewhere inside, I always wished I could just be a kid, and not think so deeply, not be so bothered by things. The truth is, I focused much of my childhood on growing up too fast. I wanted the freedom adulthood brings, since I felt like an adult trapped in a child’s body.
I have been keenly aware and concerned about life’s problems, since I can remember. I don’t feel I have ever been carefree, except for some time in late adolescence when I tried to take a break from it all by frequent intoxication. Even when I was drinking though, I couldn’t seem to escape the philosophical side of myself, and my misery would wind up being compounded after having the short burst of freedom from inhibitions. Why can’t the world be more perfect? Why is their so much suffering? Why is life so unfair? I remember becoming so melancholy right around puberty, and so overwhelmed by the prospect of living in this fallen world, that I locked myself in my bedroom for a long time and cried. My mother, worried sick, had to get a family friend to come talk me out of my funk. I told her I didn’t want to get older, I didn’t see the point of school and work, I didn’t want to live in this world. This wasn’t the way we were meant to live, and I knew there had to be something better than a future I felt was getting worse and worse. She held me while I cried, and encouraged me to get a grip. But my 12 year old heart was broken over the state of things, and I didn’t sense much hope.
Somehow I pulled myself up and kept on going. I think everyone thought I was just melodramatic, but I struggled with depression off and on. Though I had a strong connection to God from early on in my life, and I felt he was constantly pulling me back to him, I kept running away. I was a bit of a loner in school, and I went back and forth between wanting to be liked and seen as “cool,” to feeling like no one understood me, or ever would. It was here I decided to learn to keep people at arms length, and here where my faith in God became a secret. The longer this went on, the more nonexistent faith and friends became.
I was never taken for counseling as a child or teen, but there were many times life felt like too much for me to bear. The best solution for me seemed to be to numb out, and to walk through mindlessly, taking pleasure in things, and the fleeting enjoyment in earthly comforts. Even though I was raised in a Christian home, and rededicated my life to Christ at 15, I would frequently walk away from my faith. I would feel strong in it at times, and then when troubles came, again I would despair. It didn’t seem worth it to keep trusting in God when I was living in a battleground, a wasteland.
For most of my adulthood, you know, the point in my life I had waited and pushed so hard to reach, I felt aimless. I floundered, like a “lost soul swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,” to quote my favorite Pink Floyd song. I felt like I didn’t know who I was, or why I had been put here. And like I did as a child, I would often hope this life was all just a dream, that I would soon wake up from and be in my real life, one much better than this. The older I got, the more that dream faded, and hopelessness set in.
Soon the hopelessness had gotten so bad that I felt I was wasting my life. I struggled to get up each day. I had wandered to the foot of the throne in search of mercy. I sought God with vigor during some problems in my life after my first son was born. I felt I was supposed to make a difference, but I didn’t know how. So through prayer, I came up with a new purpose. Again, I would recommit my life to Christ, and stay home to raise my children in his ways. It seemed crazy, but it became the most important thing to me. I had to give the children I planned to have the hope I had been searching for. I had to help them learn to impact the next generation.
But as good as that idea seemed, when it came down to it, I couldn’t achieve it. I didn’t know what to do. My husband wasn’t exactly on the same page spiritually; he fully supported me staying home, but it became clear he wasn’t ready for the same level of commitment to a close walk with Christ. We weren’t in a church, and I felt lost with no one to guide me. Every attempt I had to fulfill my purpose and have a deeper walk with Christ seemed to be interrupted by one crazy hardship after another. I so longed to make each moment count, as that was my motto, but it seemed impossible when I was just holding on for dear life, praying for the moments to pass quickly. Life was a boat in a raging sea, and I felt I would go overboard at any moment. It didn’t take long for me to lose sight of it all and drift back into the aimless existence I was so familiar with. That is till this past year.
A series of events that only God could have orchestrated brought me to a point of brokenness I have never known. And finally I sought him for full surrender of my life. I wasn’t any good at it, so I gave it back to the author and asked him to please fix the mess I had made. I can happily tell you that while it hasn’t been easy to give up control in any way-in fact, it has meant continually dying to myself and everything I held dear, including my pride-I wouldn’t trade this past year of heartache for anything. And I look forward to revealing the ways God is bringing me on this journey to living life on the narrow road, one stumbling step at a time.
This year feels like a fresh start for me. Something is different. I feel like I finally know what it is to be living. No I don’t have all the answers, never will, and I don’t feel I have got it all together. I haven’t yet arrived at my destination. I will always be a work in progress as long as I’m here, but I have learned something I didn’t know before. I have a new captain of my ship who gives direction and meaning to my life. I have so many goals and things I feel I have left to accomplish, and I am going to work like the time is short, because you never really know. I will take it one day at a time, yet I know there will be days I feel discouraged, where I fail, feel attacked and overwhelmed, and start to lose sight of the truth. I still feel like I’m wasting time when I am not “doing something” all the time, but I cling to the fact that nothing is ever wasted when you have given your life for the cause of the kingdom.
I have a hope and a future; I have an identity and a purpose. I am driven. I know what I am here for, and I know full well that it won’t be easy. I will have to pick up my armor and fight everyday to keep going, to fix my eyes on what is unseen, on why I am here. I will have many battles and trials to come, but I face them with full confidence that I will come through. Because my life is hidden in Christ, I already know the outcome He has promised. Eternal victory, and that is something to live for!