I am a hopeless realist. Some close to me see my outlook on life as pessimism or gloom-and-doom, but I have always considered it far better to have my feet planted firmly on solid, safe ground rather than to be floating around with my head in the clouds, to be carried with the wind like a hot-air balloon. My oldest daughter calls me a bubble-burster because for every far-fetched, dreamy idea she comes up with, I have a realistic response; my [oldest?] son says I'm a downer; my husband quips that I just don't know how to live. Maybe they're all right--but at least I'm living a safe life, right? Wrong. I'm not safe. Things still go wrong; trials still happen; I still get hurt. And as much as I want to believe that my lay-low, even-keel approach to life will help me cope with the inevitable, it doesn't.
One thing is certain--living with my feet planted in the secure, the known, and the familiar has one very ugly consequence--hopelessness. Remember? I said before, I'm a hopeless realist. I don't want to be, but that's where my life has been for as long as I can remember; and it is a very depressing way to live.
I have spent all of my adult life doing something that no one else has ever known about, and few (if any) would guess that I've even given thought to. For the last nineteen years, I have been silently mourning the loss of the potential I had in high school. It's something that seems ridiculous, espeically considering that I can talk (and write) a blue streak about the wonderful opportunities I've been afforded and the blessings I have. The truth is, I really do believe those things are straight from God--but what of my pride? It's a much bigger beast than I admit. I fight it--hard--but it's still there, holding me down like a cement shoe.
Truth be told, regardless of whomever else I have failed, let down, and disappointed with my life choices, I have not lived up to my own expectations--and that fact alone is probably the tap root of the depression I've fought numerous battles with, the fear of failure, the worry that sometimes cripples me, and the anger that spews out of me and wounds those I love the most. My life is not what I expected it to be; it isn't what I hoped and planned for. It's not grandiose, inspiring, or (by the world's standards) hugely successful. My live is boring, it is filled with mundane tasks that are seemingly meaningless in the grand scheme of things.
Nineteen years and four months ago, I had immeasurable potential. I had musical talent, book smarts, and the drive (or was that stubborn will?) to attain any goal I set before myself. What would my future have held? The Air Force Academy? A top chair in the trumpet section of the President's Own, performing for White House functions, inaugurations, and federal celebrations? A counseling position at a psychiatric hospital? A notable article published in the New England Journal of Medicine? Maybe even the tip of my own personal iceberg when I was fifteen--the honor and notoriety of being the first female fighter pilot to fly into combat? The sky wasn't even my limit. No, my limit was something much, much smaller. My limit took the form of two blue lines appearing on a plastic stick, and something that wasn't in the plan--a family.
Finding out I was pregnant at sixteen is not something I've talked much about. Sure, we got the mandatory premarital counseling before we "did the right thing", and I've had little discussions here and there with good friends over the years, but maybe it's time I admitted something that none of those conversations have ever reavealed about me--getting pregnant devastated me. I put all of my dreams, my hopes, and my expectations of grandeur in a little trash bag along with a home pregnancy test on that day back in June of 1989 and threw it all away. I was smart enough to know that my life had changed forever, and my future was being overwritten; my plans were gone and I had no idea what the years ahead held for me, for my relationship with Pete, or for our child. It crushed my spirit, and it has taken half of my life for me to come to grips even with myself.
It is not easy to admit that my own bad decisions broke my heart as much as they did, and a large part of that is that there is a by-product of those sins. I have an eighteen-year-old son who was the result of that sin, and I have struggled for years with how to approach the regret I have for my sin without somehow making it seem like I wasn't thankful for the blessing that the Lord gave me through it. Is the child conceived in sin still a blessing? HOW? Does Psalm 127 apply only to God's faithful? Does it suppose that only the children of "mighty warriors" are blessings? I don't believe it does. It is my belief that those arrows MAKE the mighty warrior. I see now how God was using that sin of mine to build toward something bigger. He knew my resolve; He knew what my convictions were and He knew that the trial of being challenged with the consequences of my sin was something I'd be able to handle. And God stood right there, silently providing the strength I'd need to get through each hard day, each ugly comment, and the years of beating myself up. God knew. I might not have, but God knew just how that little baby was a blessing, and He gave Jonathan to us willingly, filling our lives more than we ever deserved.
So what's the problem? Well, I just couldn't let go of what "could have been" until I understood what God would take nineteen long and painful years to show me what He wanted to accomplish with me and through me. I still don't know what all He has in store for my future, but I know my potential is far greater now, having been through the trials I've been through, than it was when my life was a blank slate. I know my potential has nothing to do with what I can do on my own. It has nothing to do with personal accomplishments. It's much, much bigger than that, and vastly more important. One other thing is true of His plan: There is far more joy and peace in it than in anything I could have planned for myself, because He is directing my path and every good thing is a gift, given to me by the Creator of life Himself. I couldn't plan anything quite that good!
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard and all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.