College is funny, you know? And definitely not what I expected. I think back to that sweet little girl in the pickup truck: truck bed stuffed full with all her belongings and $100 in her pocket ready to start her future as a strong independent woman at Abilene Christian University. I had just come from working at church camp all summer, on fire for God. Ready for the future. I felt invincible in high school. I was adored by my peers, talented at track and cross country, a leader in multiple programs, and recognized constantly. I worked hard and saw the benefits immediately. I was passionate in my youth group and woke up everyday knowing that I would be in a position of influence when I walked into the halls of my high school and church. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than knowing that what I am doing is directly shaping lives. I love being a leader. That day I left camp with my truck bed full of all my belongings expecting to walk into a college experience that was very similar to high school.
But thank God that he did not allow me to continue living a naiive life.
The truth is the 5 year old little girl inside me who used to think her daddy should be president of the United States has been stolen from me. The 6th grader inside me that thought she and her three best friends from middle school were all going to wait to kiss their husbands til their wedding day has been stolen from me. And the senior girl in high school inside me who thought life was going to be easy with a little hard work and simply having faith in Jesus has been stolen from me.
And I miss those girls.
Do you ever look back on old family photo albums or those pictures of the wall and envy your past self?
The truth is there are times when I reflect and truly mourn the innocence and naivety of the past because life was simply easier.
Its easier to live in ignorance isn’t it?
Some parts of those girls are still very much alive inside of me (I still get giddy when my friends talk about boys. I still love ice cream from my grandma’s favorite ice cream shop, Sarah’s. And I still love my old truck I drove in high school).
However, the rose-colored glasses have started to fade slowly but surely and sometimes seemingly all at once. I cling to what’s left of that rosey color and find myself anticipating what part of life I’ve been hoping for that will be exposed for what it is next: marriage, parenting..
I have held the hand of my best friend in the hospital before she was sent away from her family to an eating disorder recovery program in another state for 7 weeks.
I have put my trust in people in the church who have broken my heart and left me confused about theology and silmutaneaously left me in the loneliest place I’ve ever been.
I have spent an entire semester of college living with regret after breaking a boy’s heart and dealing with insecurities as to why he wouldn’t take me back.
I have sat in a closet with a roommate, helpless as she entered into a state of psychosis.
I spent a year praying over our room every night as another roommate often woke up screaming from demonic dreams.
I have had to go to counseling and therapy for trichatillamania, a BFRB.
I have been denied more jobs and not voted for in more leadership positions than would be worth listing.
I have felt forgotten and abandoned by my best friends.
I have sat and cried with my friend on a gravel parking lot and begged for God to intervene after her boyfriend texted her he was committing suicide. I then sat in the hospital with her all night after the police rescued him.
I have had a mentor say she couldn’t keep meeting up, because she was dealing with her desires and attractions to another woman.
That’s just to name a few.
Perhaps out of all of the moments that will forever be with me, this is one of the most powerful: I was once sitting with a girl I had been meeting up with throughout the semester. She is so beautfiful. But this time she sat on my couch and the mood was somber; She had attempted suicide three times in one weekend and was on her way out of town to be medically taken care of.
She looked at me in the eyes and said, “Anna, what is your reason to keep living?” Honestly, in that moment, I was flustered. I really had never thought that I had an option not to live, so it was the first time it occured to me I must have a reason I do keep living. I was so desparate to give an answer that would hold some weight, but truly felt inadequate because I had not dealt with suicidal thoughts myself. After a moment of silence, I mustered out something along the lines of living so that others would have hope. I only can only pray that the Holy Spirit moved in that moment.
Living so that others may have hope.
I’m not sure who I’m writing this to (because me writing this really is just as much for me as it is for anyone) but to whoever you are reading this, I believe that despite all of those things, those rose-colored glasses that we tend to clinch onto so dearly are only fading with purpose. And the parts you miss inside of you that you wish you could hold once more also had their purpose. And it was beautiful. They showed you a life untainted by the evil and complex brokenness in this world. They showed for however long they lasted, the wonder and beauty of life without fear or rejection.
But the truth is, this world is not our home. And the truth is people are hurting.
And the truth is we cannot truly depend on God unless all other hopes beside Himself prove futile.
What I mean is this:
If I had not been through a confusing and hurtful leader split in a church, I would have continued putting my complete trust in people rather than in God.
If I had not broken up with that guy and then tried for a whole semester to get him back only to be let down, I would not have been able to contrast the beauty of true peace from the Lord when you are with the person you love and want to spend the rest of your life with.
If it weren’t for the close proximity to depresson and anxiety, I would have been content in making this world my home. I would have never yearned for heaven to be near.
If I had not been defeated and angry and crying out to God for not having any meanwhile plans the most important summer before i graduate college, I would have thought that sitting on a plane flying to South Africa the next week to work for my dream internship would’ve happened because of what I had done and deserved.
When life brings you to the bottom of the barrell, Jesus Christ is the ONLY thing that can keep you afloat.
A special person to me once said, “perhaps suffering is the only school we graduate from in which we learn something worth its weight.”
Suffering serves as the single-most impactful time of realization that things are not how they are meant to be…those tragically beautiful moments where you KNOW within your soul you are made for more than this world. How beautiful is it to have that innate knowing within of “not right. not good.”
To suffer is to be pulled under from the mediocracy of numbness and to FEEL SOMETHING that urges you to make a difference.
God, let us let suffering do its work within us. Let us not live in mediocracy and comfort if it means abandoning a life of passionate living for truth and justice.
This world is not my home.
And the true test of life will be how you will live once you realize that every expectation of this world was not all you’d hoped it would be.
“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation…as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger…we are treated as imposters , and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” 2 Corinthians 6:15
Did you hear that? No matter what happens in this world, or how beaten down you are, your identity and purpose in Christ is IMMOVABLE.
No one can take this away from you. Once in Christ, his plan is for us to be true, known intimately by him, living, rejoicing, making many rich, and possessing everything in Him. And unlike those rose-colored glasses, this never fades. This stands the test of time.
Jesus Christ died and defeated death so that we would have a greater hope than this world.
So when your rose-colored glasses start to fade, remember that there IS a greater joy, a greater hope, a greater peace.
Maybe joy is no longer a default, but it is a beautiful choice.
And God’s word says when we choose to go out in joy, we will be led forth in peace and the mountains and hills will break into singing. (Is. 55:12)
And the joy of the Lord is our strength… (Neh. 8:10)
So I think I’ll keep my rose-colored glasses after all. But the beauty I now see is not one of naivety, rather the beauty of sharing and living a life of hope and joy found in what I’ve found to be truly everlasting: God in all His beauty, and His word, standing the test of time.. no matter how much everything else you’ve hoped in seems to fade away.