On Tuesday, I celebrated my twenty-first birthday. But for the latter part of the day, I’d more likely say that I pushed through it rather than celebrated it.
Granted, it was a really great day. I gave a presentation in one of my classes at Texas State University in San Marcos, was picked up from school by my parents to grab lunch, turned in a research paper, and was let out of my second class after only fifteen minutes. Afterward, I went home knowing that I had absolutely no homework to do because I had finished it all beforehand in order to relax on my birthday. So I watched some gaming videos on YouTube, ate tasty turkey dumplings made by my mom, opened presents, ate some delicious applesauce cake (as made by my eldest brother*), and watched more YouTube videos. But at some point during those evening activities, I realized I was feeling pretty low.
Why was I even sad? It was my birthday, for crying out loud! I had a loving and kind family with whom to celebrate and had experienced a good day at school. Yet, still, there was something that pulled me down, and it was this: a feeling of failure.
“I’m twenty-one,” I thought. “At least a quarter of my life is over. What have I done with it? What haven’t I done? What in the world am I doing here?” And then I started to compare myself to everyone from the past who had done great things when they were younger than me. At the age of twenty, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein… Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice… Elizabeth Barrett Browning published her first collection of poetry… Plato became a disciple of Socrates… Sir Isaac Newton started developing CALCULUS…
So yeah. I guess I had my first existential crisis.
I moped around until my dad asked if I wanted to watch a movie or a television show with him, and I mumbled something that implied that I wasn’t really sure. Knowing me better than I know myself, Dad asked what was wrong, and I said, “I’d feel so guilty if I watched a movie…” and divulged my guilt that I wasn’t nearly as accomplished as all the people I mentioned a moment ago. “I’m already twenty-one,” I said, “and there are tons of people who had already converted masses to Christianity, written books, and figured out all these huge things by the time they were my age.” It wasn’t even primarily that which bothered me. It was also that I recognized that I don’t know what I’m good at yet. Like Hiccup from the animated film How to Train Your Dragon, I don’t really know who or what I am at this point in my life. I haven’t discovered my true potential and abilities yet, and on Tuesday night, that was making me really sad.
When I told this to my dad, he said, “Kelly, you can’t do that to yourself. You aren’t those people, and that was a different time.” My mom, who was sitting nearby, said, “And you just turned in a research paper, and you’re going to college on a full scholarship!” I knew they were right. I was still a little disappointed with myself and what I hadn’t done in life, but I decided to watch a few episodes of Bones with my dad anyway and, later, went to bed.
When I woke up the next morning, I realized that the feeling of failure had stayed with me through the night, so I decided to stay in bed for a while and try to think things through. I started praying. “I just don’t feel like I’m doing much or have much worth. I’m just one more human being on this planet—one more person out of billions that will soon perish and fade from memory. I’m just like everyone else, and I’m going to die just like everyone who already has and soon will. I’m not that special, am I?…”
I chewed on that for a while. It was kind of a sad thing to think about. I mean, we’d all like to think we’re special—that we are distinguished or exceptional or extraordinary—but while we each have unique personalities, fingerprints, eyes, voices, and creative abilities, every human is essentially similar in their physical and mental and emotional capabilities. And, not to be too morbid, but each of us has an expiration date. In sum, we are not God, and we are not special.
But we are not unloved. I came to this conclusion almost immediately after the “not that special” train of thought had passed through my mind, and I don’t know if it was something from the Spirit, but, gee, was it helpful. “No,” I thought, “you’re not special. But God is. He loves and created you, and you have worth to Him. He will not abandon you or let you burn when you pass through the fire or allow you to drown when you pass through the waters. Your God is special, and He especially likes you.”
And then some verses that I’ve used for teaching at a youth girls’ church event came to mind:
1 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life…
10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.
11 I, even I, am the Lord,
and apart from me there is no savior.
12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “that I am God.”
Isaiah 43:1-4, 10-12
No, I’m not that special. And I hate to break it to you, but you’re not, either. But our God is special. He alone is sovereign and infallible and pure and immutable. He is loving and forgiving, and He is capable of bringing you and I and all others through wind, fire, water, and storms. He wants to make us his privileged kids and to grow and discipline us so that we will look and live more like our Daddy—like our perfect and special and totally unique Abba Father. We are loved by God, and that means something. It means it’s not about us; it’s about Jesus.
I’m still disappointed that I haven’t done more with my life and that I’m not more Christ-like or Christ-loving at this point. I wish that I could identify my abilities and purpose, and I would love to know what I’m supposed to do with my life. And, quite selfishly, I wish I didn’t have to be forgotten like so many other human beings have been already. But I’ve got to be okay with that. I have to start praying that I would understand that I’m not the point and that I would be both content with and passionate about God being the only One worth glorifying, worshipping, and remembering.
With that being said, I want this blog to be more focused on Jesus than on what we need to do to be more like Him. Being like Christ and loving Him is important, but will that ever happen if we fail to focus on He who “fill[s] us with joy in [His] presence” (Psalm 16:11)?
As I write this, I am praying that you, brother or sister, will join David in saying what he did in Psalm 16: “Jesus, apart from you I have no good thing. You alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. You will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.”
I am also praying that if you, like me, feel that you have wasted portions of your life thus far, you will recognize that you still have today and hopefully many more days ahead of you to focus on Christ and to glorify Him. Maybe you and I could have done more at this point, but that is over. The past is gone. What matters now is that we “[f]orget the former things [and] do not dwell on the past. See, [God is] doing a new thing!” (Isaiah 43:18-19a). He is sanctifying us to be like Him, and He has blessed us with a little more time to worship Him.
So praise be to God! He is special and worth pursuing. I am His kid and His witness, and I will always be, even on the days when I am uncertain of my purpose. I am Christ’s, and because of His grace, I am growing and becoming more inclined to pursue His goodness. Yes, praise be to God for that and more.
*I haven’t mentioned this in a while, but I should note that I am the oldest of nine children. There’s me (21), my sister Rachel (18), six boys (17, 15, 13, 11, 9, and 7), and my younger sister (5). So now you know!
(Cover image found at http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CAYQjB0&url=http%3A%2F%2Fadsoftheworld.com%2Fmedia%2Fprint%2Fpetits_gateaux_cupcake_boutique_ring&ei=dGeDVMWaL42XyQS_gYKQBQ&bvm=bv.80642063,d.aWw&psig=AFQjCNGM70SriW5vIDQIJ3mRks-nvZQVcQ&ust=1417984140717366)