I was eighteen. I was about to graduate high school. And I had no idea what I wanted to do next.
I was taking all these huge tests to get into college, sending in applications and visiting places trying to decide what the next chapter of my life should look like. There were so many options and it seemed so overwhelming.
I didn’t even know what I wanted. What did I want to study? What was I interested in? What did I want to be when I grew up? What was my purpose? I was already riddled with fears and insecurities. Comparison and perfectionism dictated my life. I struggled to see anything of value when I looked in the mirror, but I held a perfect mask up to my face whenever someone was watching. Fear of the future seemed to add yet another huge weight in an ocean where I was already drowning. Looking at my life, culture seemed to be trying to tell me the formula to happiness. Go to college, meet someone, get a nine to five job, build a perfect house with a white picket fence and you will be happy. If you are beautiful and successful, you will be happy.
But it didn’t ring true. The people in my life that had all of that didn’t seem to be happy. Why did my personal happiness matter anyway. Could this be all to life? Was this my purpose? These were the questions running through my head before I went to sleep at night.
I was so lost, hurt, broken and confused through life and what felt like the expectations of society. And deep down, I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to know that my life mattered, that I could help change the narrative of brokenness I had experienced.
Looking back, there was a simple truth I was missing. Before I could know what to do next, I needed to know who I was.
And so, I decided to do a Discipleship Training School. It wasn’t technically in my life plan of college + significant other + job = success and fulfillment. But something drew me, beckoned me to a life beyond the borders of what I knew. And honestly it just sounded cool. To travel the world while learning about Jesus? The thought of that made my heart some more alive then staring down the next four years of more tests. But it meant some dreams and expectations had to die. I wanted to please people. I wanted to make my parents and family happy. When all my friends were talking about what school they got into, I wanted something to say that sounded impressive. I had always found my identity in being the one with the best grades, being involved with the most, staying at the top of my class. Who was I if I didn't have those things? By saying yes to a DTS, I was to surrendering my own future plans, my own authorship of the story I thought I wanted. I was turning away from the world’s definition of happiness that felt so unsatisfying to begin with. I didn’t know that by laying all this down, my hands and my heart would finally be open to receive something of far greater worth.
Through the teachings and lectures of first three month season was this beautiful process of healing and God breathing identity into me. I wanted to change the world, but I couldn’t help anyone when I didn’t even know who I was. All of those fears and insecurities I had tried desperately to hide came to the surface. It’s hard to hide in community. And God was gently but surely bringing all the mess to the surface, bringing healing and life. It wasn’t always fun. Sometimes it hurt. It wasn’t perfect. Let me tell you, if living in community with twelve other nationalities in cramped quarters in a culture I knew almost nothing about and where I didn’t speak the language doesn’t bring out your best and your worst, I don’t know what will. I had spent so long running from those things, that when I was finally faced with the chaos inside me it wasn’t pretty. But that place of realizing my brokeness was the very place I needed to be to receive God’s healing. This community that brought me to my knees was also the instrument of the remedy. I met people who saw my darkness and my worst, and still loved me. DTS didn’t fix me, I’m not sure we are ever “fixed”, but it started a long and grace soaked process of restoration.
And then on outreach I discovered something incredible, God uses broken people. He does! He actually loves to use broken people to bring light and freedom! The weaker I was, the more His strength shone through me! And as I loved and prayed for the people around me, passion was sparked. Now that I knew my identity, who God was and who I was in light of that, everything changed.
As God had laid a foundation of identity and healing, He could now build a purpose. As we worked with slum kids and university students, I discovered a passion for storytelling and using the arts to cross cultural barriers and share the Gospel. As I felt hopeless against the odds of huge needs, my eyes were opened to urgency of skilled field workers with the tools to give sustainable guidance. Instead of success, appearance or perfectionism, my identity and purpose became wrapped up in these simple words- love God and love others.
And so I followed the invitation of the Lord to go back to college and get a double degree in Advertising and International Community Development.
But when I look back, it all started with the simple yes of doing a DTS. With trading my definition of success for His. With surrendering my brokeness for His healing. With giving Him my weakness and finding His strength. With finding my identity which lead me to find my purpose.
Everyone’s story is different. But this I know, the story that God writes is always far better and more glorious than the story I could write for myself. And God can do more than I could possibly have imagined with a small, simple, yes.