I sat on the couch, crying. I was lonely, confused, heartbroken, and afraid. I was 17, with no real friends, recently dumped, unsure about college and all the winding, obscure paths that lay before me. “This is supposed to be the best time of my life,” I choked out as my daddy sat by my side. My sweet daddy cracked a smile, a smile that seemed to know something I didn’t. “I sure hope not,” he replied. “How sad it would be if the best was over by the time you’re 20. You’ve got so much ahead of you. The best of your life is yet to come, sweetheart.”
That moment has never left me, and has been fresh in my mind as I reflect upon my 20s. And you know what? My daddy was absolutely right.
The last 10 years have been a whirlwind for sure. I married my best friend, earned a degree, and made lifelong friends,. We’ve owned two houses and have welcomed 4 dreams-come-true into this world. I’ve worked in daycares, churches, taught lessons, and have sung on international television. But all of these things don’t hold a candle to the greatest experience.
I’ve been held.
I went through a dark period of doubt about halfway through college. I wasn’t sure if God was good, and certainly not convinced that his plans were best. But over the last decade, I’ve come to see that His glory and my joy are the same, and that even the darkest moments have held great promises. We’ve walked through depression, loss, unemployment, and betrayal. We’ve celebrated a happy marriage, healthy children, an amazing church family, and faithful provisions. And in all of these mountains and valleys, the radiant light of God’s goodness has remained consistent. He has been faithful to work in our lives, and he has been gracious to work on me.
We hear talk of the day we meet our Maker face to face, that there will be a reckoning of sorts, and that all of our sins will be laid bare before us. But the Bible also says that in Christ, our sins are as far away from us as the east is from the west. I’ve long tried to reconcile this in my mind, and one day while scrolling through pictures, I began to wonder what it was in us that made us love “before and after” shots so much. It struck me that perhaps that’s what we’ll see when we meet our Father. Maybe He will show us the path that we were on- filled with despair, ugliness, regret, and sin. But I’m hopeful that He will then spin us around to the work of art we’ve become. We’ll be able to trace the lines of his mercy over the canvas, linger over the brushstrokes of suffering that brought great refinement, and revel over how those worst moments were crafted into beautiful shapes.
The best taste I’ve had of this so far was upon visiting my husband’s childhood church when we were newlyweds. I had slipped out to use the ladies’ room and encountered a group of young teenagers. I immediately identified with them. I saw myself in their awkwardness, in-betweenness, and general discomfort with themselves. I ached in remembering my own loneliness and self-loathing. As they herded out, I made my way to the mirror and gasped. There before me stood a woman. Those awkward lumps had become shapely curves, the acne had disappeared and left fair skin, and in my eyes was a confidence that I knew without a doubt that I was loved. Years had passed, and without my even noticing, I had been molded and changed. Shaped into what I had been becoming all along.
So it is with great joy and anticipation that I approach this next decade of life. Lord willing, I hope to have many more moments of joy and laughter. I pray I can grow in love with my husband, delight in my children, walk with my dearest friends, and serve with His People. I know there will be terrible storms and unforeseen heartaches. I know I will see more and more the depths of my sinfulness and the greatness of his mercy. But I know that in all of this, he who began the good work in me will be faithful to complete it. And when his work in each of us is done, we’ll all stand back and gasp at the sight.