Some people know their destiny from a young age. I am not one of those people.
I remember Josh, a seven year-old who knew he was going to be a pastor. He’d preach to his younger siblings and neighbor kids like me. I pretty much zoned out his sermons, but just sat in awe of how he could be so sure of his destiny. Other kids I knew excelled at music, art, drama, or sports. My older brother was a math genius. My first day of second grade, the teacher said, “You’re Gabe’s younger sister. Are you as good at math as him? What’s 12-8?” Nerve-wracked, I froze. “No, I guess you’re not like him. Oh well.” That pretty much sums up my elementary career.
I was a shy wallflower with speech problems. Teachers heard my slurred speech and assumed I wasn’t that smart. I didn’t have any noticeable talent; my grades were average or slightly below. No one expected much from me at all.
But I had a dream. I dreamed that I stood on a stage, & that a voice would flow from me that grabbed people’s hearts and moved them to action. I loved that dream, but never took it seriously. After all, how could God move so powerfully through a terrified, speech-slurring wallflower like me?
I think, since elementary, my life has pretty much been about God restoring that dream to me.
I overcame my speech problems in elementary like most kids do. A move to a new school gave me a fresh start and I excelled academically. In college, a professor challenged me that my shyness was really selfishness, that I cared more about sounding dumb than about showing love to people. That conviction put me on the road to overcoming shyness. I am still an introvert who enjoys alone time, but I am no longer afraid to talk to people. In fact, I actually enjoy it now. As my friend Angela says, “Life is miserable if you don’t choose to enjoy people!”
By age 38, I had become a jack-of-all trades in ministry. I built and lead pretty much every local church ministry you can think of, except worship (seriously, you don’t want to hear me sing) and preaching. (After all, I’m a girl and girls don’t preach. Even after I read in the Bible about other women who taught and preached, I still didn’t dare. It’s not socially acceptable.)
And although I was successful in most of those ministries, I never truly loved them. I never woke up excited in the morning to go to work. I did it because I loved God, I loved people, and it was the ministry opportunity given to me.
John Maxwell teaches, “Find and stay with your strengths. If you don’t write your destiny, someone else will write it for you.” Was I writing my own story, or was I just taking whatever work came my way? My first 38 years of life were spent learning, experimenting and gaining lots of competency. But I wanted to live and work in my sweet spot, maximizing my potential and impact. So I made the goal that by age 40, I will be working full-time doing what I love and am best at. Did I know exactly what that was? Um…no. I definitely had a better idea than when I was 20, but the picture was still a bit fuzzy. So I began praying, “Lord, remove from me all false burdens placed on me by people, leaders, churches, and even myself.”
It has been the most freeing prayer I have ever prayed. Slowly, I got in touch with what I truly loved: speaking/preaching, writing, and coaching. I got brave enough to turn down job offers, including jobs with more pay and more stability. I began to clear my calendar of other obligations so I could focus on developing my strengths.
I also began asking, “What kind of person do I want to be?” A picture emerged: I want to know my neighbors, not be too busy to take a meal to the widower next door, or to invite people into my home. I want to be available to greet my kids after a rough day at school. I want to be peaceful enough to be in touch with the stirrings of their hearts, and help them reflect on it. I want to have energy and time to be playful with them. I want to keep flaming my romance with my soulmate & best friend, Eric Eisenmann. In general, while I love traveling to speak, it’s meaningless if I’m too busy to impact and have deep relationships with those dearest too me.
Regarding my physical health, I realized that I truly love gymnastics. As a child, I only had 2 months of classes & then we moved. From then on, I played whatever sports my dad liked. And while I had some success as an athlete, I never loved any of those sports as much as gymnastics. Sooo…I decided if I’m going to workout I might as well workout in a sport that I love. At age 39, I did a very awkward cartwheel & pulled a leg muscle. Lol! But I’m still working at it. On my 40th birthday, I hope to post a gymnastics video. Yes, it’s a bit silly, but for some reason doing cartwheels and handstands at age 39 helps me believe that I can make my other dreams come true also.
Maybe I’m having a mid-life crisis, but I don’t think so. I don’t regret my past 39 years. I learned a lot and I’ve built a great home life. I’m just a late bloomer when it comes to recognizing and developing my best talents. Praying, “Lord, remove from me all false burdens” put me in touch with who God uniquely created me to be. It gave me courage to shed all the activities people thought I should be doing, and instead pursue the dreams God planted in my heart years ago. It’s given me an energy, joy, and focus that my life had lacked.
I believe God creates every person with a unique destiny that when fulfilled, leaves this world a more beautiful place. I believe God gives each person desires and dreams that match their unique destiny. I believe that people’s expectations, our own self-opinion, the disappointments and busyness of life have a way of beating down that God-given dream. Far too often, we settle for going through the motions, just surviving instead of thriving. If your life seems a bit uninspiring right now, try praying, “Lord, remove from me all false burdens.” Get in touch with the unique destiny you are created for, and get brave enough to pursue it.
“We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else,” ~1 Thessalonians 2:6
What dreams do you have? How do you discern between a God-given dream, and an imposed dream? What do you need to clear off your plate to pursue your God-given dream?