I recently spent several hours with part of a group of friends I have been blessed to know my entire life. Childhood friends. The ones who loved me when my hair looked like this:
See? The true friends who loved me through seasons of bad clothing choices.
The real friends who knew we were weird and just owned it.
These are the friends who have walked through all the issues of singleness and marriage and motherhood and fertility and adult siblings and divorced parents and dying fathers and difficult children and career planning and disappointments and victories. It is absolutely not lost on me that my girls are a HUGE blessing in my life and that most people don’t get to have this sort of life-long support system of friends. It is also not lost on me that my friendship with them would be catastrophically jeopardized if I posted the pic we took most recently…so you’ll have to just imagine how we have all aged so beautifully and gently.
My friends and I grew up in a society and a time when the prevailing media message directed at us was “you can be anything or do anything you want! Go after it and get it. The world is within your grasp!” This was not a philosophy that was necessarily spoken over us in our households as children…but it was certainly pervasive in schools and in the world around us. My friends and I went off to college, thinking the world was our oyster and believing we had limitless options available for our choosing.
In all fairness, we did have so many wonderful opportunities…but we also had some doors completely closed to us. After spending time with these dear friends, talking about everything from sagging boobs to meal planning, from schooling choices to Bible study methods, I am so proud of the way we have individually walked through failure and struggle and loss, recognizing that we have far less control over our lives than we once believed we had. Have we become anything we wanted? Not really. Have we done everything we intended to do? Nope…and we likely won’t ever do some of it. Did the “go after it and get it” method work well for us? Absolutely not. We have all face-planted pretty hard on some things…and face-planting is SO painful!
If I could, I would go back to those girls who stood on the brink of their futures and give them a different message.
I would tell those girls, “you are already who God made you to be and He made you that way on purpose. Go after excellence in all the ways He made you uniquely you!”
Each of my friends and I have walked different paths and those paths have grown us into the women we are today. God made us individually and intentionally, with different giftings and callings, with different purposes and passions, with different strengths and weaknesses. And God has stretched us from our limited knowledge of ourselves, to show us new aspects to our identities we would have never predicted. But the core identities within us are still the same. We have chosen to do some things the hard way and learn from the struggle…but the Lord has been faithful in our lives.
The places where we have found the deepest joys and the greatest victories have been the places where we have lived into our individual giftings and followed God with excellence. The places where God has used us have not been flashy. None of us are famous, nor are we success stories by our 18-year-old standards. But we are learning what it is to live with excellence in the place God has put us, to keep our heads down and each do what we know we are called to do well.
As Jill Briscoe has wisely said, “go where you’re sent and stay where you’re put and give what you’ve got until you’re done!”
So, while we might be developing a couple of wrinkles, some suspicious freckles, a few grey hairs and a whole herd of children in our home town where we never wanted to be, we are also developing some mighty confidence in the God who created us, called us and placed us…and we will serve where He’s put us with excellence.