One of my favorite classes I took in college was an art appreciation course. When completing your degree, you have to take a certain number of fine arts courses at UNCG, so I took this class and ended up loving it. There was a bit of history, but the main focus of the class was seeing what makes art, art. That’s a super overarching topic, and one that I won’t focus on today. What I want to talk about is a piece that I discovered while researching a project. Modern artist, Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen took mirror shards and covered a series of mannequins with the pieces. Then, she shone light on the mannequins, creating a light affect similar to a disco ball. I just remember thinking how cool that was, and recently, remembered this again and feeling the Holy Spirit nudge me. My life has been wild the past few months, with incredible moments but with it the fear of the unknown creeping in. In conversations with friends of mine, this feeling is not something I share alone. I think even you may be walking through some very real unknowns, feeling like you aren’t sure what’s next. These fears are tools from the enemy that then cause us to doubt ourselves. We begin to feel like failures, worry about past mistakes, and compare ourselves to those who seem perfect around us. We end up feeling broken. Shattered people who feel like they can’t be anything in a sea of people. The Holy Spirit nudges me sometimes in my moments where I feel week, reminding me of promises and truth in scripture. The thing he reminded me of right now, was of those sculptures, a broken masterpiece.
I love failure. Now I don’t love the feelings that come with it, the rejection, the pain, the heartache; but I love failure. It’s something that I’ve experienced a lot of throughout my life. In high school I failed Spanish class. It was a humiliating moment, I had to repeat the class and every day sat in with students who were younger than me. It was a humbling moment, I felt like a screw up, but God taught me perseverance. I applied to colleges, and every school I applied to declined or waitlisted me. I remember sitting on the floor screaming out until my voice went hoarse. Failure hurts, but failure is good. We don’t learn the oven is truly hot until we touch it by accident. Failure is the greatest tool, because failure allows us to re-think what was done. One of my favorite quotes is by writer, Grant Morrison:
“It’s good to mess up! Sometimes when you mess up, you find new things and new ways to work.”
In May of 2014, I started this blog. I recently looked back at my first official post talking about what this blog was going to be all about. It’s pretty simple, lots of spelling and grammatical errors, but it was the start of something I would continue to do every week. From that point, a lot of crazy life events happened. Sometimes I wish I could go back and let that kid know about the battles that would be fought and the heartache that would come. I love being able to look back at the past. I never want to linger too much, but it always amazes me at how God has continued to move in my life in all things. I wrote a post in 2015, right at the start of the roller coaster God was going to bring me on. I had faced bullies, church hurt, and feeling un-wanted; but I could not have seen the next chapter in my life. In that same year I would lose two friends, have a family member suffer from addiction, and feel an overwhelming sense of fear about my next steps in life. I started that crazy season with a post about a verse that stuck out to me. I look back not and see just how God moved in the midst of all things.
There’s really nothing better than a good hero story. Well, maybe it’s not your favorite, you may like a good thriller or romance story, but for me, hero stories are the ones that speak to me on a deeper level. In all stories with a hero, there is a person who finds themselves with a calling over their life. They have a past which has prepared their heart for what is to come, and because of that past, they feel a need for something higher. Then there is a catalyst, the moment when our individual gains new power. The radioactive spider bites the hand, the farm boy gains the lightsaber, and the slave girl volunteers to enter the death games. For whatever reason, our heroes are chosen to live for something greater, they are chosen to stand for the world they live in. The same is true in our lives. The world we live in is filled with sin, we are a fallen people. There are things that are happening each day that aren’t right, we use our words to tear each other down and we belittle others if they are not up to the same imaginary standard that we try to achieve. We become so focused on self-image rather than looking at those who are hurting around us, but we have a choice. There is always a choice. We have all been chosen. We have been called to do something higher, we have a purpose and that purpose can change the world.
Each day, we create a story. We take on new challenges, we meet new people, and we fight to make it through the hardship. You have a story. You have a past that has led you to this point, you have the ability to make choices now that will propel you into a future God has for you, and you have the power to leave a legacy that will last forever. Over the past three weeks I have written posts to help you understand that we have all been given a story. We all have a past where we can see that God has brought us from, good or bad. We all have the power to choose to live daily seeking Christ, not choosing to be of this world. All ending in our future, that once we trust God with it, we can leave a legacy that matters. These are all things that are vital to your story, but today there is a conclusion that may be the most important aspect of your story. Your story needs to be shared. Another word for your story that we see over and over in the bible is that of your testimony. A testimony is simply a declaration of what you have experienced. Your testimony is unique, because it is yours. Your testimony in Christ has power to it, it has the power to cast out darkness and push the enemy down. Revelation 12:11 says, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” We have been saved by grace and our testimony of that fact gives us the power over the darkness. We become the light, and when there is light, darkness flees.
Well, October is now over, the year is quickly coming to an end, and the Christmas creep is in full effect. November has come, it’s a great season to reflect on what we have been given, I’m sure you’ve already begun to see the Facebook countdowns of what people are thankful for (not knocking on that, just think it’s funny how we all know what I’m talking about). We reflect on the year that has happened and what is to come, but what happens when we’ve had a tough year, or even a tough life? For me the past year has been absolutely crazy, yet all throughout the hard times God has never given up on me, and I haven’t given up on him. I have watched the hardship of addiction, seen two people I called brothers pass away, and watched my family experience loss. I wish this post was about how life gets easier or how things don’t hurt, but that simply how it works. One thing through all of this past year, and even throughout all that I have been through in life, there is hope because Christ never fails us.
It’s true that I, and you, have experienced hardship. That’s the dark side of life, but be careful not to focus on that. Focus on what God has done. Look at what Psalm 136:1 says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Or in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, which says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That’s pretty serious, in everything, good and bad, give thanks. This isn’t easy, but that isn’t what God is saying, he is saying that when we rejoice in the hardship, we grow in wisdom and find peace. I say this because over the past year I have experienced hardship, but this has been one of the greatest years for me. As I typed that sentence it wasn’t easy, if I could change time I would, but I would never have experienced all the good. Today I want to share with you the way I have grown so that in whatever situation you are in, you can learn to give thanks and find true joy.
Perseverance produces character.
When I look at the lives of the great leaders in the bible, it astonishes me how many of them were just like us. They weren’t gods among men, they were human, each with their own struggles and heartaches. Noah was given a mission and berated every day for what he knew was right. Elijah struggled with depression, even when he had a strong gift of prophecy. Jesus suffered rejection and people spitting on him as he faced his death. There are hundreds in the bible, story after story of men and women who struggled, but God blessed them. Each of them made an impact on the world, they each had character. They were wise and they used this to help others. When we stand in Christ through our struggles, we can make the same impact. The reason I want to be a next generation pastor is to help kids like me to know that they are special, and that no matter what has happened, they can impact the world. So often I think we, meaning everyone, are told that we aren’t good enough or that we will never do something important. I don’t believe that. I never have. Call me crazy but I believe that God wants to use each and every person, whether you’re thirteen or eighty-three, God has a purpose for you. All we need to do is persevere through the storms, and focus on Christ.
You have a story.
Each one of us is unique, no two people are alike. No matter if you have a twin or are from quintuplets, you are an individual. If you want to understand this concept, at some point right now or later on, look around in a crowded place and think about each person. Each face, every little detail, every person you see has a story. It really puts you into perspective, and the cool thing is, our stories can encourage others. One of my favorite things about leading a small group is seeing each person share and help each other, and I don’t even have to say a word! Not because I’m lazy, but I don’t have to say anything because we all can build each other up. This is the whole point of the church, to stand together and grow together, laugh together, and even cry together. I say all this to encourage you that you are not alone in your struggle, and God doesn’t want you to go it alone (I wrote a post about this a few weeks ago that explains more of this idea), and the second is that your story will help others around you. Use your story to encourage someone.
Hardship gives vision.
All throughout history, great leaders see a problem or experience persecution and decide to make a change. There is nothing stopping you from doing the same. While this year has been hard, I have chosen to look at the good from it, because I know good comes from all things. Instead of thinking about what could have been, I try to make an impact today. I have grown with my family, and my spiritual family has grown even bigger. I have learned to value the small things. I chose to start a blog and developed a passion and a vision to become a writer. I have seen so much good, and I wouldn’t give any of it up, the godly friends, the incredible dreams, the beautiful girl, and the powerful relationship with Christ. It may seem bleak for you in this moment, and I know it’s hard when you can’t sleep, but choose to be thankful. God will use your hardship to give you a vision, a vision is simply anticipating something that is to come. So anticipate the power that will come from a passionate love and pursuit of God, then you will leave a legacy unlike anything else.
I hope this helps you. I know what you’re going through, and I know it hurts. Trust me when I tell you that there is so much more for you, you have dreams and aspirations, and these were given to you by an all-powerful creator. You are human, but more importantly you are a child of God. There is a quote from Doctor Who that I always think of when dealing with people who are struggling and it helps me. The Doctor says, “nine hundred years of time and space, and I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.” You are important. We may not be world famous or be rich, but we all make wide ripples to everyone around us. So this month, think about all the things you have been given, cherish the memories of the people you have lost, and go forward to make even more. When we begin to change our perspective on the hard times, we find joy in the darkest of times. God made you, he made all the miniscule details about you, and he wants to do something in you and through you. You are a child of God, you are important, and you can change the world. Choose to be thankful in all things, and you will find true joy.
Change the world.