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Hey. It’s me. I mean you. In nine years. In just a little over a week, you’re going to walk down the center aisle of your church to Pomp and Circumstance at your graduation, and everybody is going to be watching you and only you.
Right now you are busy planning your graduation and you are very nervous – you are putting just as much detail and attention into this as you will for your wedding, which later you might find to be pretentious and narcissistic (then again, even though you are homeschooled, you have the right to celebrate your accomplishments). But for now, just enjoy it. Don’t fret. Your graduation day is going to be perfect.
You are eighteen and not much confuses you. You know what you believe and why. You know “God’s will” and what it will look like for you. In ten years you expect that you will be living a life similar to what you live now. You envision yourself much like the pastor’s wife you idolize, married to a man you’ll probably meet at college, serving in a small church with a Spanish ministry, maybe with a few children underfoot.
You’ll be serving your husband and serving your God in full-time ministry, your “holy calling” – your “charge to keep.”
Your world is black and white. You are confident that you are “spiritual” and growing “more spiritual” with every passing day. You know that God is happy with you, because, of course – you are serving Him every day. You read your Bible and pray and play the piano in every service in your church and obey your parents – your entire focus centers on “being right with God.”
You’ll think that you are beautiful because you are a good, pure Christian girl.
You maintain an image that everyone can admire. Everyone – from your family to your pastor to your kindergarten teacher – will have wonderful things to say at your graduation about your character and your heart and your service and your attitude and your talents.
And it’s not just an image because everything they’ll say about you is true.
You are self-absorbed in your own goodness – and today on your graduation day, everyone else is too. And it is perfect.
Eventually, you’ll learn that there’s more to life than all of that.
Over the next nine years you will question nearly everything you believe in. And you’ll realize that you are okay with that. In nine years you’ll realize that life isn’t black and white. It’s messy. Very very messy.
During your graduation ceremony you’ll sing words about your God and His plans for you and how you are going to exalt Him. And while the words will never cease to be true, you’ll never bring yourself to sing them again because they come from a black and white view of a world and a God that you now see in color.
You’ll realize that exalting God and glorifying God doesn’t look like what you thought it would look like.
You’ll realize that He will be exalted and glorified even when you break rules, even when your courtship fails, even when your dreams come crashing down around you, even when you wonder if God is even relevant anymore, even when you’re heart is filled with ugly, even when all you see is mess that you can’t even begin to sort through.
Over the next nine years, you will come face to face with some of your biggest fears and expose some of your biggest flaws.
You will make a ton of mistakes and hurt people that you care about and struggle with your identity. All of that will produce massive personal growth – but it will hurt like heck and you will wonder why life has to be so hard.
In nine years, you’ll curl up on the couch with one of your Bibles (which happens to be an NIV, so never say never), you’ll crack it open for the first time in months, and you’ll take comfort in the words of Ecclesiastes, of all places.
“What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.” (Ecclesiastes 1:13-15)
You’ll realize that the thing that you’ve learned the most in the last nine years is just how crooked and broken and messed up you are and how much you need Jesus because you are hopeless without him.
You can’t see it now, but you have already begun fighting and questioning.
You are already going against the grain by choosing to attend Bible college instead of being a “stay-at-home daughter” like your pastor talks about (by far the most rebellious thing you’ve ever done). You struggle with guilt and wonder if it’s a mistake to challenge your pastoral authority, but deep down you know it’s the right thing. I’ll tell you one thing – while your college dream will not end the way you think it will and it will hurt – it’s definitely not a mistake.
In nine years you will be married and you will have a child – but you’ll simply be an attendee in your church. The man sitting in the pew next to you will be wearing overalls and a t-shirt because he cares more about doing something special for your son then looking the part of a perfect Christian.
They will be your life. Loving and caring for them will be your full-time job, your “full-time Christian service.”
And it will be more than enough.
You’ll be wearing glittery perfume, dangly earrings, a skirt that comes above your knees when you sit (*gasp*), and your toe nails will be painted bright pink.
Your spirit will come alive to “Lord, I lift your name on high, Lord I long to sing your praises” and you will want to dance and raise your hands, but instead you just smile because…well, you haven’t fallen that far…yet.
Your church will honor its high school graduates and a youth quartet will sing. You’ll see one of the singers in the bathroom and you will want to stop and tell her that she did a great job (because she did) and that her song was beautiful (because it was), but more than that, you’ll want to capture the last nine years of your life and tell her everything you’ve learned.
You’ll want to tell her that she is beautiful – not because of her talents or because she’s serving in her church or because she’s a good Christian girl – but because she’s a wrecked mess and Jesus loves her anyway.
But you won’t, because you know she has her own journey to walk, her own doubts to wrestle with, her own mistakes to make, her own flaws to uncover.
Just like you did.
Next Saturday, on a beautiful sunny day in May, you’ll turn your tassel. Your perfect graduation day will be the beginning of a tumultuous decade of change and pain and growing up the hard way.
But you’ll come out on the other side better, stronger, closer to your true self – not because you’ll be “more spiritual” or “more Godly” – but because you’ll realize that you’re a hot mess and the only goodness you have is because of Jesus.
And that is the truth you’ll be proclaiming to the world in nine years.