On Growing Up

I grew up in a Midwestern community of 2,000 people and only two stoplights. (Once upon a time, there were three, but then someone accidentally knocked one down and no one ever bothered to put it back up). One of the most popular hangouts was the local gas station, the nicest restaurant was a Pizza Hut, and the only claim to fame was that Native Americans and townspeople signed a peace treaty there in the 1800s.

The local residents are a hardworking and hearty people who always seem to be prepared for anything. I once returned home from college to find that my mom had stowed away enough food to feed an army—including 300 pounds of potatoes—in our basement. “You never know what might happen,” she said sweetly, leading me to hypothesize she knew about some impending apocalypse the government had not yet disclosed to the rest of America.

Although I loved my tight-knit hometown, I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and move to Los Angeles to study film. During college, I assumed I would find my dream job right after graduation and simply ride off into the sunset. Instead, it took me over a year to find a full-time job in my career field. In the intermittent phase, I worked a series of jobs including a several month long saga writing blogs for a urology lab, a rather unfortunate stint walking three obnoxious terriers, and a somewhat frightening experience working in a clothing store located in a nondescript warehouse and manned by people who burned strange incense and spoke in an indiscernible language. (To this day, I’m not entirely sure whether it was a real company or a drug-laundering site, but I quit out of legitimate fear of being sacrificed to their gods.)

I can laugh about these moments now, but I didn’t see the humor at the time. I spent many a night crying on my bedroom floor wondering, “Is this all there is to life?” Was life really just about never having more than $30 in my bank account at any given time and eating an unending string of peanut butter sandwiches? (Is there any discovery more disheartening than the realization that you are no longer a “poor college student” but just “a poor person?” I submit that there is not!)

“I just want to arrive in life already!” I told one of my friends dramatically. In hindsight, I don’t think any of us ever fully arrive. There will always be corners we can’t see around, and even when one thing is figured out, there are a hundred other things that won’t be. Life will never be completely settled, and it often won’t feel like it’s going according to plan.

Thanks to my time in film school, I know that hundreds of reshoots, edits, and changes go into making a perfectly polished movie. The audience sees the edited version, where everything is slick and precise and perfect. But the crew knows about all the sweat, blood, and tears that went into making the film, and they know it wasn’t as flawless as it appears. Life is not a movie, but sometimes I think it’s like the making of one, where you take all the things you planned on and all the things you didn’t, and still make something beautiful out of it.

My new favorite word is transit. It means “passing through or across, a transition or change, a transportation from one place to another.” And that’s what all of life is, really. One day we may be able to understand more clearly what God was doing in moments that currently seem painful rather than beneficial, but right now we can’t quite see around the corner yet. We have to learn to embrace God’s goodness amidst lives that are always in transit, and open our hearts and minds to the new things He is doing, even when they’re different than we expected.

When the present feels scary, it’s tempting to cling to the past. And when future is uncertain, it’s easy to imagine the very worst about it. But to believe the very worst about the future is to believe the very worst about God, because it means we don’t think He is worthy of our trust when circumstances are uncertain. God has been good in the in the past, and He will continue to be good in the future. He calls us to rest in His faithfulness instead of trusting our fears.

So instead of uncertainty, I choose to see freedom and joy. Instead of brokenness, I choose to see the God who can put me together again. Instead of worrying about the future, I choose to trust the God who can see the end of the story, and who works all things together for our good.