“God is not a man who lies, or the son of a man who changes His mind. Does He speak and not act? Or promise and not fulfill?”
– Numbers 23:19
I turned 25 this past weekend…. Closer to 30, halfway to 50, and a quarter of a century. But forever still 90 at heart. I’ve never really liked birthdays. I kind of dread them actually. I’ve always seemed to use them as a benchmark. A measure of success. What have you achieved in the last 365 days? Are you closer to your dreams? I usually end up in a moment of panic frantically listing all my achievements and something I am less proud to confess…all the ways in which I have fallen short. Which no matter how I seem to cut it, the failures always outnumber the successes. Now before you tell me all the things wrong with everything I just said…stop right there! Believe me; I know! While Uganda has taught me so much about self-compassion, grace, and that voice inside my head, I am still human and a work in progress. Much more than I would ever like to admit sometimes.
Since traveling home for Christmas, I have been hit hard recently with all my shortcomings. While it was good to see family and friends after almost a year, it didn’t take long for that anxiousness that seems to be ever present in me in the U.S. to settle back in. Comparing myself to others, looking at all the things I didn’t have: a paying job, my own apartment, a significant other. Measuring success by the world’s standards. The list goes on and on. I was scared, anxious, and overwhelmed. I felt this longing to get back to the slow rhythm that was my life in Uganda. To a place that made sense. To a place I didn’t feel like an outsider, because money or success or marriage wasn’t my top priority.
But, in those moments of anxiety and comparing myself to the world, I heard God whisper “Those ways are not My ways. Those thoughts are not My thoughts.” I began to look at my life. While I don’t have a house or husband or anything that remotely looks like success in America, I look at what I do have. I am surrounded by a community of people who boldly love others in the ways of God, all while yelling the status quo must not remain the same. They fight for women, children, and those society refuses to look at. I am privileged to stand in the Glory of God each and every day. If you ask me, what I have is so much better than money or consistent electricity or a fancy house.
THOSE WAYS ARE NOT MY WAYS. THOSE THOUGHTS ARE NOT MY THOUGHTS.
If you would have asked me what my dream was when I was 19 years old, I would have told you, “Fighting against VAW in an African post-conflict society”. At 23, I packed up my life and moved to Northern Uganda to do exactly that. I’m lucky that God gave me my dream this early. I recognize some wait years for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Sarah waited 14 years from the time God promised her a child to when Isaac was born. David waited 15 years to become king. The Israelites waited for centuries in silence for the Messiah.
But honestly, I’m afraid of what is to come. This was my goal; this was my prayer for years. I’ve feared in these last few months, knowing my time here will soon come to an end, what God could possibly have next for me. What could be better or more fulfilling than this? I have feared what happens when I return to the U.S.. When I am again confronted with the things the world will try to tell me matter. I’ve found God in everything here; will I find him in the hustle and bustle of the states? I panicked sitting at my desk last week. I thought I have no clue what I want to do next, where I want to go, or who I want to be with. This is the only place I want to be.
In all of this fear about what is to come, God has slowly revealed Himself to me. He has said, “Yes this dream is nearing the end, but in this year I have put new dreams in your heart.” Since being here I am not the same person I was a year ago when I stepped on that plane with my heart racing and a look of excitement in my eyes. I cannot unsee the things I’ve seen or unhear the things I’ve heard. I’ve been stretched and broken and loved and comforted. My eyes have been opened more to God’s heart, power, and glory than ever before. He has turned my heart from one of stone to one of flesh. And in this year God has placed new dreams in my heart. Big ones! So scary I get excited and overwhelmed just thinking about them. Dreams that make me step back and stand in awe and wonder of the things God could do.
In this year, He has taught me so much about His character and His goodness. I am scared about the change that is to come. But that’s the thing about God, our lives and the world around us are constantly changing, but He’s not. GOD DOES NOT CHANGE. And neither do His promises. Where I am and who I am with may change, but His plans and promises for me do not. No matter my success or failure or what the world says. I do not know what I am going home to or what 25 will bring. I have no job, house, or husband, but none of those things really matter do they. Jobs will end, houses will eventually fall away, and one day, the one we tie ourselves to will leave this earth and so will we. God is and will be the only thing that remains.
I am 25 now. I have evaluated my success in this life so far and I have come to realize I have very little of what the world says I’m supposed to have and you know… that’s ok! Because what I do have is so much better. I have the dreams the Lord has written on my heart and the promise that wherever He sends me next, He will be the one that fills and sustains me. I have had the immense privilege to see God’s unchanging heart and wonder here almost every day, and I’ve seen and learned more at the age of 25 than some will in their entire lives. So, here’s to the next 25 years of dreams, of God’s promises and lessons, and of refusing to conform to the ways of the world. Because at the end of it all, I would rather have “the light of heaven and lover of the lost” than anything else this world has to offer.