When I was a sophomore in high school, I had to write the story of my life. There was a chapter we had to write about our dreams. So, my 15 year old self fabricated “Dream Lea” as this brave, gentle, strong-willed girl who would help alleviate some of the suffering in this crazy, beautiful, and broken world. I wanted to be the girl who ran towards the burning building to save everyone. My dream life was filled with excursions of me running towards pain and suffering. I wanted to be a doctor. And then I realized that if I couldn’t make it through pre-cal, there was no way I could be a doctor. So in the part of that chapter where I had to write about how I would get to my dream life, I simply said that right now I am not doctor potential. But if that was my calling, God would get me there. I said that every failure, experience, relationship, and breakthrough I ever had would one day shape me into someone empathetic and skilled enough to meet a patient’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
And then the fear kicked in, and then an identity crises, and I became unsure of what I wanted to do again.
I had this week off of school, so I checked in with my therapist. The last time I saw her was 7 months ago.
“This is good for you,” She said, smiling, after telling her about my senioritis, lack of motivation, and anxiety.
“No it’s not. Why is it good for me?” I said, leaning back into the soft sofa.
“Because life is discombobulated sometimes. You said you hate this class, because you never know what to expect. In life sometimes you don’t know what to expect. In life sometimes things are really shaky. Sometimes you have to deal with things in life that you don’t like! Is there a way you can think of this differently? Find something to look forward to that you might get out of this?”
“I mean, I like to write. But I don’t like essays,” I tried.
“Okay you don’t like essays. Next you hate school entirely,” she said, understanding the slippery slope of my thoughts. I nod at her accuracy. “That’s why you can’t make decisions based on your feelings. You can’t make decisions really based on your thoughts either. You have to make them based on your values. So what do you value, Lea?” She asked, gently.
“Not giving up,” I said, immediately.
“Good. What does that look like?”
“Showing up? I don’t know. I already show up,” I laugh. “I told my teacher that I felt like I was doing everything right, but everything was going wrong. And she laughed because I’m definitely not doing everything right.”
“Aha!” My therapist exclaims. “Do you see what you said there? Even if you were doing every single thing right, life doesn’t always work out. There isn’t always a formula to success. Things aren’t always so black and white.”
“I hate that!” I said.
“It’s supposed to be that if you study for a test you will do well,” I said.
“But sometimes you don’t,” she replied gently.
“Yeah, sometimes I don’t,” I said.
“Do you feel like there are things you can learn from the times you don’t?”
“Okay so,” I begin my rant, “Sometimes I think there is something to be learned from failure. But other times you did everything you could and its not your fault and you would be doing yourself a huge injustice to say that you could’ve done something differently!”
“Do you actually believe that?”
“Then why does failure still bother you, if you don’t actually think it’s bad?” She asked me.
When I didn’t answer, she said, softly, “You can’t accept it, can you?”
“No,” I said, softly.
“It’s not the failing that bothers you I see, but the thought that comes up when you fail. What is that thought for you?”
“That I’m stupid.”
“That you’re stupid. Do you see how that’s not correlated with who you are? For example, even I as a therapist will wonder why that person didn’t come back, and I’ll ask myself if it makes me a bad therapist.”
“Of course not!” I said, passionately.
“But then I’ll see if there was a way to grow from it. Maybe I can develop more skills for next time. But the thought, that’s not who I am,” she said.
God places gifts in every single one of us. Matthew 25 tells the Parable of the Bags of Gold:
“To one, he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.”
The two who gained money were both celebrated by their master, and the one who buried his money got thrown outside into the darkness. Moral of the story is, God is not concerned about the amount that you multiply your gifts with. He just wants you to grow it. He praised the guy with 2 bags the same way he praised the guy who came back with 5. God doesn’t care if you go to the Olympics or become the best of the best. But he wants you to do something. He wants you to explore the gifts he has given you.
So I have this dream in my heart to be the girl who runs towards suffering and brings and healing and revival to the world. The man who dug his master’s money in the ground did so because he was afraid. I’m afraid. Somehow in the midst of this season, I lost touch with the girl who wanted to run into the burning building and became someone who keeps trying to defend myself from pain. My therapist was right. I am still afraid of failing.
But I’ve seen what God can do. I didn’t know that one day I would declare Jesus to take away a girl’s rare, muscular paralysis disorder with my prayers and see God do it. I didn’t know that one day I would see God take away my tears in an instant, or see my friends get healed right before my eyes, or see God do what years of therapy can do in split second. All these things I’ve seen God do are all the more reason for me to not fear the flame, for me to run towards suffering and not away from it.
And I was thinking about when I was on that panel, and they asked me what my best and hardest class was. And I said AP chemistry was my best class, and also my hardest. Because the hardest things really are the most worth it sometimes.
Nobody ever changed the world by listening to fear. Sometimes you get frustrated with things because you are going to be part of the solution. It’s clear to me what frustrates me. It’s clear to me what I want to do.
If I wasn’t afraid I would go after this dream head on. I would choose where to go to college based on opportunity rather than difficulty. I would be the girl who doesn’t need easy, but just possible. Developing your gifts is not easy. It can get confusing and discombobulated. I will probably fail sometimes. But I don’t want my fear of failing and dealing with discombobulation and tension to ruin everything God has for me. Not letting fear affect my decisions would reflect my values and not my feelings. And that’s what I’m going to do. Jesus defeated death, and fear has no hold of me any longer. So yes, being a Christian was never supposed to be easy. But we don’t have to be afraid of experiencing hardship. There is no fear in love.
You are worthy of what God is calling you to. You are brave enough. He will not give you a dream and not give you the tools to get there. You were called to change the world.
So let your fire fall and cast out all my fears
let your fire fall your love is all I feel.
Tell the devil no, not today.