When I was fourteen years old, my family moved from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Corpus Christi, Texas. I was really excited. I would be starting high school in a beach town and I couldn’t wait to get involved in the sports program! Playing sports was everything to me. I disciplined myself in sports, I enjoyed playing sports and much of my identity was wrapped up in sports. All I wanted was to move to Corpus Christi and start high school on the right foot – playing sports!
The sports I loved most were track, gymnastics, volleyball and softball. I played these sports from a young age, and I was confident that I would exceed in my new high school. When we moved to Corpus Christi, however, I discovered devastating news: the local high schools didn’t have gymnastics, volleyball or softball – all they had was track! I couldn’t believe it! Texas schools were about two things back then: cheerleading and football.
I floundered my first two years of high school. I never learned the discipline of studying or reading. I almost never did my homework, and I never read books. I would watch people read books, and I wondered what was going on in their minds. In fact, the first book I read all the way through was during our drive from Fairbanks to Corpus Christi. I devoured the book, and I couldn’t believe all the beautiful images and emotions that went through my mind. I loved it! Yet, I still hadn’t learned the discipline of reading, so I didn’t pick up another book for several years.
During my freshmen year in high school, I felt hopeless and detached. I had lost my identity, my method of meeting friends (on the playing field) and my sense of achievement. Is it any wonder I accepted Jesus during this time? I struggled with feeling disconnected – I was in a new state, new culture, new climate (Corpus never has a winter) and new changes in my body, and I had nothing to cling to for acceptance. I started studying a little bit more, and I was shocked when someone called me “the smart girl.” Actually, I was thrilled! At least I had some kind of title!
During my sophomore year of high school, I ran track; but it wasn’t the same. There was no sense of teamwork. I enjoyed my track friends, but I still didn’t feel connected. Finally, my junior year in high school, I started tentatively writing. My grammar was pathetic, but I wrote with a lot of emotion. I felt a little tug toward writing, and I started writing in a journal (it is really embarrassing reading my high school journal and seeing just how desperately pitiful I was in high school).
My junior English teacher had us write an essay about Thomas Paine’s famous line, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” We were supposed to research current social issues and discuss them in our essay. I, of course, didn’t know how to research, so I wrote a satirical essay that made fun of the boys in our high school. I didn’t realize that I was writing a satire, but I whipped up the essay (grammar mistakes and all) in about ten minutes. The next week as I walked into class, my teacher had a big smile on her face and she told me how much she enjoyed my writing. She said that I should write for a magazine. She even read that essay to all of her classes.
I was ecstatic, and my waning self-esteem had a dramatic boost! I finally found something that I did well, and it had nothing to do with sports. My senior year, I took a creative writing class and I excelled. My grammar still wasn’t great, but my teacher got excited about what I wrote. I started to get some confidence in my writing, and I began to integrate writing into my identity.
I went to college without any idea what degree plan I would take. I did, however, take a lot of English classes. I finally took a grammar class, and the hazy world of grammar started to become more clear. At the beginning of my junior year in college, my guidance counselor said that I would have to choose a degree plan. I chose English because I had no idea what I wanted to be, and I couldn’t think of anything else.
One day while I was in the mobile home that I shared with a friend in college, God told me that I was going to be a writer. I was twenty-one. I remember shrugging my shoulders and thinking to myself, “Well, I better start reading then.” Once I knew that God wanted me to write, my writing improved dramatically. One English professor, whom I had taken for two semesters, even commented about the remarkable change in my writing. She contributed my writing improvement to her excellent teaching skills (she was a good teacher), but I never told her the full story. I finally had a God-given purpose, and I had a clear goal at which to aim.
I write all this because for years I never understood why God brought me clear across the country to a school that didn’t have the sports that I loved. I always questioned God and wondered why my first two years of high school had to be so hard. It wasn’t until a friend showed me her “life timeline” that I gained understanding.
My friend made a timeline of her life and wrote down the big events (bad and good) that happened to her. Then, she looked at each event and asked the question, “Where was God’s hand in this?” I discussed her timeline with her, and we were able to help her gain many beautiful insights of God’s guidance in her walk of faith.
When I thought about my life, the first thing that came to my mind was my freshmen year in high school. It was very much a low point for me. However, I realized that if I had not gone through that struggle, I might not have become a Christian, and I definitely wouldn’t be a writer. God in His awesome way allowed hardships in my life, so I could become who I am today. I can say with all honesty that I am glad I went through what I did. Of course, there is more to the story; but I’m glad God gave me clarity concerning this particular struggle. I look forward to the day that God gives me complete clarity about my life. I know I will be mighty glad that I trusted Him and stayed obedient to His will.
What about you? Do you want clarity about some of the events that happened in your life? Part of knowing God more intimately is knowing who you are in Christ. God says that you are a pleasing aroma to Him (2 Corinthians 2.15). You need to know the ingredients to that “aroma” so you can make that fragrance even more distinct for God. Moreover, the world needs to see who you are as a believer, and it is hard to be open about your Christianity when you have no clear identity as a believer.
I challenge each of you to make a timeline of your life. You can bring it before the Lord and ask Him to show you His hand in all the hard times and good times. I would also suggest you enlist a close friend to talk you through it, as well. I did this with my friend, and she came away with a better understanding of how God has moved in her life and how her circumstances has made her the sweet fragrance she is today.
Remember this: Your test becomes your testimony and your mess becomes your message. Strive to gain understanding about your walk of faith, and God will bless your efforts: “Blessed is the man [woman] who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold” (Proverbs 3.13-14 NIV). God loves you, and He will match your heartache with His grace. Trust Him with your life. God is faithful, and He desires a strong relationship with you.
“God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our
Lord, is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1.9 NIV).