I always saw myself as a hero.
Who didn't as a child? And if you want something to be true badly enough, it must be, right? We're all too familiar with that childhood dynamic, especially those of us who grew up surrounded by magical can-do Disney messages.
But I was convinced that my desire was different. Sure, I reveled in the world of pretend, always taking the most ambitious and dramatic roles in our playacting games. But it wasn't all fake. I had an actual real destiny that was bigger than my own imagination. I was going to change the world. I just knew it.
Throughout my high school and college years, I continued to believe, holding onto the greater purpose God had for me, encouraged as He carried me through each step. I was never a fan of change, but with every push past my comfort zone, every new season that demanded new things of me, I found that the fresh Grace of my Savior was right there for the taking. I was thankful for God's blessings, hyper-aware of His Favor, and pleased with my efforts to seek Him in everything. As my life started to expand, I began to think very highly of myself, while still maintaining an innocuous front. Life had not always been easy for me, but I had grown up in a consistently-affirming environment and I had seen God remove so many obstacles that I was convinced He would keep doing that and I would simply move forward, propelled into my destiny by default. I believed my godly family heritage and my own giftings would simply make room for me wherever I was supposed to end up. It seemed simple.
Until my faith became truly my own.
In the months leading up to marriage and my first cross-country move away from all that was safe and familiar, I began to experience a shaking, deep down in my core. My foundations were strong, but I was beginning to see how little personal effort I was really putting into the strength of my inner world. My lifelong walk with the Lord had forged a strong identity in me and I knew what I believed--Who I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt. But my faith was somewhat private and had not been tested in the trenches.
The shaking began with a disillusionment with the program mentality of the Western church (or what I had seen of it anyway). Was this really all we were supposed to do, while revival was sweeping other nations and actually changing things? Why did everyone seem so excited, "feeling the glory" while I stood there feeling like I was made of stone, unable to connect. What was I missing?
With our move up to Illinois, the tropical storm in my life turned into a full-blown hurricane and my world began to crumble in the winds. Unable to break the surface of the waves that kept me "under it" all the time, I was watching my personality disintegrate day after day--my joy and courage replaced by a sullen, angry, fleshly mask that I deeply resented and yet wanted to defend at the same time.
It felt wrong. It wasn't me. And yet it was devastating to see it in the mirror--or worse--reflected in the faces of those who had to do life with me. This was probably the most horrifying thing I've ever experienced--getting completely honest with myself before God and realizing that I was NOT as brave and mature as I'd thought. I had not planned for the things I was facing, and I was being confronted daily with the reality that my faith was not grown-up enough to withstand them. My deep frustration with myself manifested in anger and annoyance at others and their inability to change my world for the better.
But God NEVER reveals anything about us without a purpose for our GOOD. Rage, despair, and lack of effectiveness were never His desire for me. And it wasn't what I wanted either. But I was discovering that I couldn't continue feeding bitter resentment and expect anything wonderful to grow. Something had to change.
Now I have the gift of hindsight, the ability to fast-forward from this part of the story to present-day. I couldn't do that then. It was a daily trek. But it's taught me something revolutionary.
Those moments of coming to the end of yourself and realizing you can't go any farther in your own strength -- those moments are GIFTS.
They have the potential to be springboards that catapult us into the next level of our destinies if we're willing. Those moments where our souls groan within us are signposts that we've outgrown the level of faith we had before. The faith of our past was beautiful and necessary, but now we need fresh revelation, a new level of encounter with God's fear-shattering love. It's time to grow up a little more.
We understand and accept this in our physical lives. As babies and toddlers, we were constantly growing, stretching, and straining toward the next level of development. As children, we had to learn to read and write and do math and learn new skills. Growing out of our old clothes, habits, and mindsets is normal and expected in the physical realm.
Even more so in the Spirit.
It's the journey that so many of us have taken or will take in this life--that place where we're struggling to breathe, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate, and devastated.
Sadly, we often blame God during these times, assuming that if He was stronger or cared more for us, we wouldn't feel so weak. But these are the very moments that should drive us to Him! These points in life are divine check-engine lights, evidence that we need some help. But they are more than that. They're full-on invitations into the wealth of God's Strength, which is always at our disposal. When we cry out to Him from the depths, He carries us to new levels, new heights that we wouldn't reach alone. Places where we can actually experience the Truth of verses like Habakkuk 3:19, "The Lord is my Strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; He enables me to tread on the heights."
God is the Fountain of Living Water and He longs to fill the emptiness we so often ache with. And His fullness goes beyond comfort. He doesn't just make us feel momentarily better; His fullness is utterly transformative. He has a giant God-sized plan for the entire universe and He wants you and me involved. That's why I always felt a pull toward greatness. That's why you do. Because God has put eternity in the hearts of all men (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And every moment of inadequacy is meant to point me to the All-Sufficient One, the One who is not only the giver of God-dreams but their fulfillment as well (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Too often, our idea of greatness is limited to public image--what people will see of us. Are we successful, popular, influential? But if that's all we're chasing, we will burn out quickly. There will always be someone more influential. And the comparison game only fosters the impostor syndrome within us. Am I really worthy? Am I really exceptional? Do people see me as a fraud? Not so for Kingdom-people. We have the same worries, but don't have to drown in them.
Our greatness was meant to spring from our connection to God and our place in His Kingdom. Our gifts were never meant for us alone. By all means, take them out and admire them, polish them. But they will never reach their truest potential if you aren't surrendered to the One who gave them to you.
People see outward favor and grace and assume that you are living under the kiss of heaven. But only you know if you are. God looks on the heart; He sees and knows what goes on when no one is looking. And He did not intend for us to live as impostors, trying to project one reality while living another. You can tell if your faith is real. If it's really growing. If it's really changing you. If it's not, don't hide in shame. Run to the One whose Image you bear. Look to the Rock from which you were hewn and take that next leg of your journey as the conqueror you are in Christ (Isaiah 51:1).
Because guess what? God did design you to be a hero, but the best kind. Not one who is naturally-powerful and self-sufficient and stands on a pedestal for people to gawk at with a mixture of awe and jealousy. God is fashioning heroes who look like His Son, Jesus Christ. A hero with a royal inheritance of immeasurable glory who chooses a laid-down, surrendered life of service to God, paving the way for others, as He did for us.
My dream isn't dead. And yours isn't either. Believe me, there were days I thought it was. The Bible and the history books are full of people who thought the same. But it wasn't over for them and it isn't over for us. If you're willing, take the word of someone who has trudged through the dark, weighted down by anxiety, immaturity and limited perspectives--someone whose Savior never let her go, even when she was barely holding on to Him. Cry out to Him, from wherever you are. He has a plan for you too. And no matter how far from Him you feel right now, He's closer than your breath, providing each one.
With every inhale, there's hope, because every day you're breathing, there's God-sized potential at work.
Give Him your next breath, and He will cause your voice to echo into eternity. The way it was always meant to.