This week, I am grateful for teenager Robin.
Which sounds incredibly odd, except, if you knew how much I have hated teenage Robin, it would sound more like a kingdom miracle.
This past week, I listened to Chrystal Evans Hurst discuss her new book, She’s Still There on one of my favorite podcasts. I saw the book as I scrolled through my newsfeed because several of my favorite Christian authors/speakers/leaders shared and encouraged and cheered on Chrystal and her book launch. Up until the podcast, though, I didn’t know the focus of the book, other than, it’s a super pretty cover (and, yes, I totally judge books by their covers.)
Chrystal said the book came about when her young-adult daughter asked her advice about a decision she needed to make. Neither direction was wrong so the decision came down to what her daughter felt most drawn to do. In true super mom fashion, Chrystal chose not to tell her daughter what she thought she should do but instead told her to ask her younger self.
She said, Go back to a time in your life when you felt the most alive, the freest, the most joyful and ask THAT girl which path you should take. Then you’ll have your answer.
As I listened, I thought, huh, I have zero idea when that was.
Then God started showing me.
God reminded me of myself at 14.
A freshman in high school, just past my first summer at Centrifuge, and completely sure of herself.
And right now, we’re gonna all need to take just a moment to enjoy the memories of Centrifuge and Carson-Newman College and DC Talk and Carmen and Point of Grace. Hot rollers and hairspray and Walkmans with gigantic headphones. Disciple Now, youth choir, buses that broke down on EVERY TRIP, and crushes on the counselors at camp. The 90’s. Just so lovely.
(I actually went to a Carmen concert. Saw “God’s Got an Army” with soldiers spinning the Christian flag. How jealous are you of me right now?)
So I thought about her, my fourteen-year-old self, and how much I adored her. I remember so vividly feeling God call me to ministry that summer. As sure as I know the couch I’m sitting on will continue to be a couch, God called me to ministry. What that ministry would look like, I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. I felt called and that was more than enough.
But then, her life moved on.
Y’all know that’s how it happens sometimes, right? Especially for 14-year-old girls. I had my first boyfriend that year and he broke my heart into a million pieces. Along with some other classmates, we decided to change schools the following year and that altered my life drastically. I entered college, determined to be better, do better, only I wasn’t entirely sure what I should be doing better or how to do that unknown “what” better.
The practice of my faith ebbed and flowed over those years but all I really knew about a relationship with Christ was I had to read a devotional and pray only I seriously had zero idea how to do that. So I became incredibly legalistic about the whole thing.
That legalism became my identity. And I wore it proudly. I followed the Good Christian Girl Rulebook to a fault. To this day I have never tasted beer. I never sowed any wild oats. Never cheated on a test. Never went to a college party. Never smoked anything, legal or otherwise. That’s what good girls did, right? We followed the rules.
And I gave other people the side eye when they didn’t.
Friendships I should have invested in and nurtured, I destroyed. Relationships I should have let go and seen as toxic, I chased and fed. Dreams I needed to explore and pursue, I shoved into the back drawer of my heart and buried.
But what if all that was meant to be?
God reminded me of that 14-year-old me, and the calling He placed on my life for a purpose.
Was He there? In the middle of what I remember as a mess of a life? Was He writing His story and creating His ministry through me even in my failures?
Maybe most teenage girls are unsure of themselves, their calling, their future. Perhaps all teenage girls in all parts of the world might get a flood of hormones that completely wreck their bodies, minds, and spirits.
Likely most young Christians go through a stage of legalism because they’ve accepted Truth but have yet to fully understand Grace.
Maybe vast numbers of teenagers, girls and boys, hear God’s calling, know it without a doubt, and then go on to make dumb, hormone-driven, under-developed-frontal-lobe decisions outside their calling.
It’s possible I have been holding my teenage self to a standard few teenage girls reach.
And maybe like me, y’all find it hard to forgive and accept the person you were, much less give God the chance to remind us His calling stands.
After we fail, we put a period at the end of God’s story in our lives when God intended there to be a comma, as my pastor said last week.
Do you believe your past put an end to God’s calling?
Maybe it’s not teenage you. Maybe it’s you as a young adult, a new bride, a preschool mom, a career woman, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Maybe the person you need to rethink, like me, is someone you would rather forget entirely.
But maybe, just maybe, we are with the best of Company when we fail and God uses us anyway.
Maybe we stand shoulder to shoulder with David and Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Thomas (oh, my sweet Thomas) and Peter and John and Paul.
Maybe God uses our sins, our carelessness, our doubts, our stolen identities, our questions, our denials, our unholy anger, our persecution of others. And those things, our failures, those are not things He removes from the story He’s writing through our lives, but things He plans to use for His glory. Maybe He even intended our failures be a part of the story from the very moment He called us.
Because, friend, God was not surprised by our failures. Not even a little.
Let’s go back, return, run to that calling.
Is there a time in your life you can remember feeling joyful, free, expectant? A time you knew who you were and what God created you to do and you embraced every bit of it?
What was that thing, that calling, that dream God created just for you? Is it buried somewhere?
What would happen if you took it out, just for a quick look?
What in your life or in your past is keeping you from it? And do you trust God enough to see what He wants you to do with that calling?
Are you willing to see the period you put into your story as the comma God will use to continue His story through you?
Are you ready to step out from behind whatever it is you believe has unqualified you for service? And say to our Good Father, I trust Your calling on my life stands?
“God’s gifts and God’s calls are under full warranty – never canceled, never rescinded.” ~Romans 11:29 (The Message) (Because I love that interpretation)