When I was younger I was convinced that I could be anything I wanted to be. Following God’s plan wasn’t stressful, because I was sure that He would lead me. Monetary value was of no concern because I was sure that He would provide. I had high aspirations of becoming a writer, someone who crafted stories and published novels. I wanted to travel the world, I wanted to fall in love, and I wanted to create a family. Surely I was going to impact people, I’d think almost subconsciously. Of course my life was going to be significant, no doubt God was going to use me. My dreams undoubtedly trumped my fears, and I will be the first to admit that I spent more time immersing myself in a world that was not exactly the same one my physical body inhabited. But I was happy, joyful, and content. My ignorance truly did provide me with a kind of bliss; a kind of bliss that can only be blamed on childish wonder and inexperience.
Of course, as I matured, these dreams became less gloried, less plausible. I began to immerse myself in a type of realistic prison, consumed by the unfavorable conditioning of the world around me. I started to develop a fear of failure that recklessly ate at my self-esteem until I shied away from opportunities, lost any sense of initiative, and incessantly compared myself to those around me. The future was no longer exciting, for it began to represent a possible culmination of all my fears. I cringed at the notion of “opening up” or “putting myself out there” for in my mind it likely meant pain and rejection. All those years of dreaming seemed to do more harm than good now that I was no longer present within them. They became merely a collection of high hopes and reckless optimisms that only set me up for the disappointment that had now made its home in the pit of my stomach. These notions were rather dark, rather depressing, and rather hopeless – but this was the world that I had created for myself.
Recently, however, I have discovered that though this may be the life that I am now used to, it does not have to be the life that I now choose. I have realized that this way of thinking is not protective, but rather destructive, and though it may seem like it is safe, it is rather dangerous. I have come to miss my dreams, my ambitions, and my visions. I have come to despise my pessimism, my timidity, and my weakness. Though I know that God will still use me despite my shortcomings (and in fact, His glory will be shown more because of them says 2 Corinthians 12), I now understand that I have a part to play too. That the burdens on my chest and the passions in my heart are not selfish, but rather indications of what I should do for the Kingdom. That of course they will be scary and of course they will require courage, but I am not meant to accomplish them on my own and that anything worth doing is more often than not done afraid.
God’s calling for our lives is not always specific and it is not always so complicated. Following His plan for my life should not bring about anxiety or leave us stagnant out of fear. Shaking off the chains that have bound me for so long enables me to do more and to be more than I ever could have hoped for otherwise. I can live freely, I can take chances, and I can make mistakes – and there is grace in all of it.
I have started dreaming again, started opening up again, and started thinking of this world as a more hopeful place. And though of course I am still scared and still fighting the need to protect myself through isolation (nothing is perfect overnight), I am getting there. Through this process I am being transformed and I am being set free. And maybe I will get hurt and fail along the way – actually, I know that I will. But I also know that jumping and falling is always better than standing on the edge wondering what it would feel like to be airborne. And after years of standing and wondering, I think I am finally ready to try.
words by Jodie Jones and photo by Kate Bartley