If you asked me when I was eight, or ten, or thirteen what I thought I would be when I grew up, you would get some sort of answer that involved professional hockey, professional football, or professional wrestling. During those years, I must have been using some kind of trick mirror that made me see a body frame much larger than the one I'd been given. For a long time, I lamented not having the body frame I needed to become a pro football player. Looking back though, I hold very little regret. It's funny how what we go through leads us to where we are. I'm grateful for the quirky path my life has taken after the day I stood in the football locker room in ninth grade and realized I had grown (or not grown, to be more accurate) out of place there. You couldn't have convinced me then that it was a good moment, though.
I stand at a similar crossroads. The last several years have been the hardest of my life so far. I've lain in my bed on countless nights praying that I could close my eyes and wake up in a different life. I've asked for rescue, for peace, for comfort. I've asked, "Why me?" more times than I'm proud of. I've grown angry and have shaken my fist at God. I've grown sad and have barely found the strength to open my eyes to acknowledge the light of another day.
Yes, these years have been hard. I'm sometimes tempted to think they have been my worst. I'm also tempted to think they've been a waste. I've wasted them struggling to carry burdens too heavy for me to handle.
That's where I couldn't be more wrong.
Every heartbreak, every disappointment, every dark moment I spent wide awake at 3 a.m. staring at the ceiling (sometimes through tears), every lonely car ride I spent struggling to breathe after an anxiety attack...made me into a deeper, stronger, more humble human being.
Every painful moment that I thought was making me weaker forced me to rely on the strength of friends and family. Each time I wanted to walk away from God because I didn't think He could hear me, I chose to trust Him more and lean in closer instead. And each day, God has carried me to somewhere I didn't think I could go.
My pain has given me the freedom to sit with others who struggle, who hurt, who need someone to care. My struggles have given me grace for people in broken places, because God's given me grace as I travel through my broken places.
My weakness has taken my pride away. It's helped me to know what it means to need mercy, grace, and compassion because you don't know what those words really mean until you find yourself needing them like food, water, or air rather than an optional dessert at the Cheesecake Factory.
So no, these years haven't been a waste. I once read something that Theodore Roosevelt had said, and it comes to me quite often. He said, "Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty..." I don't think it's a universal truth, but it's something that keeps me going when I'm discouraged. I take heart knowing that I'm living out the second half of that statement--the effort, pain, and difficulty--and it's only a matter of time before I can taste whatever it is that's worth having that I believe I'm running toward.
These years haven't been a waste because while I may hate what I've gone through, I'm grateful for who it's made me and where it's taking me.