Every now and again you have a rotten summer. Either things fall apart, or things go wrong, or you are struggling through something emotionally that takes control of your life. I have faced a lot of change in the last year, everything from changing churches and making new friends to losing my grandmother and being sick for a month. (Combine stress with grief and you have the perfect recipe for prolonged illness.) But I think most of my angst over the last few months has stemmed as a result of me undergoing an emotional transformation. It happens. Much of the time you inch forward in your life, making so little progress that you are unaware of it even if others are paying closer attention. But now and again you come to a giant leap forward and suddenly get the shakes as you realize what is happening and try to dig in your heels, because you’re not entirely sure that there is where you want to go. Overnight, you kind of grow up — and it isn’t fun, because you start realizing how immature you have been in various ways, as well as having your interests change and you take “stock” of your life.
If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it will, and it will happen multiple times, each time you go through something traumatic enough to cause a significant change in your life. It is usually triggered by something, in my case turning 28 years old. I have never really felt like an adult even though I have been one, and acted like one, for the past ten years. I’ve lived on my own, learned to take care of my own finances, spent a great deal of time working, and felt tired at the end of the day like any normal adult. But it doesn’t really hit you how “old” you are until you realize that your favorite movie came out when you were 18, and most of your friends were little kids at the time, far too young to have seen it. Or worse, you look around you and it feels like everyone is progressing and moving forward with their lives except you. I ran into a young married couple expecting their first child a few days ago — she was significantly younger than me, and for a moment I thought, “wow… am I wasting my life?” This only contributed to my summer-long funk, because it seemed like one emotional hit after another as I struggled to find my place in a new church, among a new group of friends, to realize that I have outgrown some interests and turned to others, and that I don’t really care about some things anymore that were once important to me. I have had to move past everything from points of view to decorating with stuffed animals. God has challenged every aspect of my current life and I took a real beating, from how I spend my free time to what I spend my extra cash on, to my attitude about different aspects of work.
When I was not feeling sorry for myself or wondering if my life was a total waste (yes, I have my emo moments just like the rest of you), or hiding behind Terry Pratchett books and staying too busy to find time for much complaining, I was feeling down and questioning my purpose in life. In comparison to a lot of people, I have not accomplished much. Oh, I have a website with a lot of visitors and have started a magazine that is rapidly gaining in popularity but… is that enough? I have rather lost my passion for reviewing movies, haven’t hoop danced in months, and have really taken a hard look at my standards. I have dealt with loss and change and grief and emerged with the realization that life passes far more quickly than I would like. As a child, the summer seemed to last forever, and now it is over in the blink of an eye. Before I know it those crinkles at the corners of my eyes when I smile will become permanent laugh lines and in another eight years or so I’ll be too old to safely have kids. Even worse is when you sit down and really think, what have I accomplished? You start comparing your life to the lives of other people and it never makes you very happy, because for every unpublished manuscript you have filed in a closet, one of your friends has a child, and while your movie collection is chocked full of romantic heroes — other girls have real husbands. Everyone starts looking so much younger than you are on television shows, and you wonder why these characters are so confident and have it all together when you feel like a total mess.
Just about the time you start feeling really sorry for yourself is when God reminds you that your life story is not the same as other people’s life stories; He doesn’t make junk, and you just happen to be the leading lady of your own life story. It occurs to you that maybe that mother with three kids would kill to have your free time, that marriages are not always perfect, and that having kids does not aut0matically make you more mature than unmarried individuals. Learning to be happy where you are is hard — but we all have to learn to do it, and most of us are in circumstances that we can change, if we want it badly enough. Our problem is that we often measure our lives according to the standards of the world, which are brutal — the world tells you that if you hit 30 and are single, you might as well hang up your dating shoes for good, because you’re past your prime. It tells you that without kids, you aren’t that important. It tells you that unless you are Important and Accomplish Something Big, you have failed. But in truth, God doesn’t care if you have kids or don’t, if you stay single or get married, if you ever write that bestselling novel or become respected in business. The one thing that matters to Him is the state of your heart, and your relationship with Him. If you do nothing else except draw close to Him, you are a success. Everything else is optional and in some cases, a bonus, and He still loves you and demands the best from you whether you are the next Bill Gates or spend most of your life in a quiet home.
Having a day when you feel lousy is normal — we all face times in which we experience moments of uncertainty and crisis, and unfortunately, birthdays usually trigger them when you get older. (Some of you are too young to understand that … but wait until you hit 25. Trust me.) Everyone has a period in which they feel as if their life has amounted to nothing, and what they have accomplished when compared to what others have always makes them feel inadequate. We can’t do that. We must learn to wait and in the meantime, work on our relationship with Him. You cannot be a good wife unless you are right with God, and you cannot be a good mother unless you are godly enough to be a good wife. Sometimes what stops us is not our circumstances, but our awareness that we are not ready yet. I could have been someone by now. Everyone who reads my books tells me that I’m good at it, that I could be a great novelist, but I have not tried because I am not ready. Maybe my writing is ready, but me as a person is not ready. I have seen what literary fame has done to other people, how it has ruined their lives and made them arrogant, and I don’t want that for myself. Sometimes I struggle with myself over this, over wanting to be famous, just so I can feel as if I have done something. So people will look at me and say, “Wow, look at everything she has accomplished!” But that would be writing for all the wrong reasons, rather than writing out of passion and joy and worship. He has to come first — ahead of my desires, my ambitions, everything. And until that day comes, if it ever does, I have to stay Unimportant — at least according to the world.
But in God’s eyes, I am anything but.