I am reminded during a difficult time like this, that it will pass over. But unlike so many, when things do blow over, life cannot go back the way it was. I am among the class of people who cannot go back to the way things were before. There is no college for me to return to as I normally would. There is no job that I can return to once all is said and done. I am among the class of people who must begin something new after being stripped of a smooth transition from a world of study into a career. And I’m supposed to do so like nothing ever happened. Am I supposed to move on like everyone else who’s time was not cut short? Am I supposed to pretend that not getting to say goodbye to friends as close as family didn’t tear at my heart and drag my spirit to the ground? Am I supposed to pretend that the premature goodbye’s I was fortunate enough to have feel like they belonged? My exit was rushed, but most of me feels like it was left behind. What little remains is simply trying to survive the damages and pick up the pieces that remain intact. There was so much I still wanted to do. There was so much hope for what this last stretch of college had in store for me. I always said I wanted to go out with a bang, I just didn’t realize that the bang was going to be a virus. At the sound of the bang, I watched my track and field goals fall to her knees, blood flowing from the hole pierced through her heart. I watched as she fell flat on her face and lay motionless. Lifeless. Hopeless. But before a tear could run down my face to mourn, a hand was placed on my shoulder and a soothing voice told me to stand and walk; to take the next step. He told me to move forward with joy and peace. It was in that moment that I felt strength. It was strength that could have carried me through all of my days and through all of eternity. But I chose to use it to get me to my couch, safe within the walls of my home. It was my couch where I stayed. It was the couch where I could rest my thoughts and emotions. I numbed the pain and refused to dwell on it. I numbed with sleep. I numbed with distractions and mindless things. I numbed with anything that could relieve me from the reality I was being forced to experience. It’s a reality that doesn’t care what my hopes and dreams are. It was a reality that was driven by fear, and fear is something I want no part in. It is something to this day I will oppose and never give in to. But if God allowed me to endure this trial so that I raise my voice up against it, then I need help because my confidence and joy, though rooted in my hope in the Lord, manifested itself in everything seemingly stripped away. It projected itself athletically, socially, and emotionally.
Physically, through track and field, I was given confidence to carry out whatever task put in front of me. I, of all people, had the most reason to lack confidence in my craft. From day one, freshman year, I was falling short every single day of the expectations put in front of me. I have said it many times before, but I was right on the verge of being cut from the team. My confidence lacked every single day. I wanted to quit because I was a failure in my own eyes. But God swooped down and told me that I belonged on this team, and that though, athletically speaking, I was not good enough, if I put my mind on him, I will prosper. GOD gave me the confidence to continue. NOT my performance. And with that confidence came God’s blessing on the track as well. It was by that confidence that I could take on whatever event I needed to in order to best help the team. It didn’t matter the race, I believed that I could compete anywhere my coaches needed me. Track and field became a projector of the confidence and faith I have in God’s plan and the abilities he has given me.
That led into the confidence given to me socially. My place on the team was to be an encourager, a hype man, a voice that builds up leaders on the team, confident in what God has given them and in what he has promised us. Most people do not remember me being on the team my freshman year. Sometimes I wish I didn’t remember either because of how isolated I was from getting involved with the team and how far I was from being the kind of person God wanted me to be. I felt out of place, embarrassed of my performances on the track. I had my few friends and that was good enough for me. I did my thing and left every single day until the day God rattled me awake to my new calling. I had no idea how much of a blessing that calling would be to me. Relationships fuel me. They fill my lungs up with air and give me life. I am relationally driven, meaning that I don’t want there to be one person I come in contact with who doesn’t feel loved and appreciated. I don’t want there to be one person who feels that they can’t talk to me or who feels uncomfortable being around me. I want to make you smile and laugh to make life more enjoyable when it gets hard. To be relationally driven means a desire for depth in those relationships as well, and that’s why this hurts so much. You are my family. I care more about my family than they can ever know. But when God has given the confidence to deepen and widen social parameters, you never take precautions to how much it would hurt being torn from them abruptly. That’s fear. I don’t live by fear. God gave me the confidence to march forward with his calling for me during my time here.
That brings me to the confidence given to me by way of emotion. I have often described myself as an emotional brick. In other words, as someone who stands strong emotionally through whatever is thrown at them. It means having confidence in God for who I am, without insecurities or being afraid of making myself look like a fool for the benefit of others. I think that anyone who knows me can attest to the weirdness I demonstrate daily. For those who have seen it, my only wish now is that you know the source of it. This confidence to walk with social fluidity, whether in seriousness or silliness, is due to emotional rigidity. A confidence that stems from knowing the place God has put me. I don’t fear how I will be responded to. I don’t fear being laughed at. I don’t fear being rejected by people socially. I am confident in the person God has created me to be and in the place he has put me. He doesn’t need me to be someone else. He doesn’t need me to be something other than what his calling for me is to be. And that goes for anyone. So, whose up next? Who’s going to be the next person to lay aside fear? Who’s going to stop buying into the system of living robotically as society wants us to be and start being the kinds of people God wants us to be? I’m not asking you to be the next Brad Smalley. The world doesn’t need another me. It needs you, confidently.
What’s hard for me right now is that all these things I have just talked about; athletics, relationships and emotions, were projectors of the confidence God has given me. They were platforms to which I could demonstrate the confidence given to me by God. And right now, it feels like they are gone. Gone before I could transition the projection into something new. Gone before I hit my goals on the track. Gone before I “defined the relationships” and determined their places as we depart from one another. Gone before I could emotionally prepare to say goodbye to it all. It’s not fair. But it’s not fear that will carry me through it. It’s not the fear of losing things that will keep me going. It’s not the fear of leaving something seemingly incomplete that will motivate me to complete all that comes before me. Its confidence in all that God is and all he has done that will keep me going. It is confidence in God’s plan, that no matter how incomplete something may look from our perspective, if God says our time is up, then it is indeed complete. For seniors like me, things can’t go back the way they were before. Our time has been cut short. But am I supposed to take the next step like nothing ever happened? No. We have been given a gift. We have been given a trial to empower us for what’s ahead. What lays in front of us is a nation crippled by fear and a false hope in false gods to nurture those fears. What we need is not people who dwell in bitterness over what they have missed out on. We don’t need people laying on the couch, numbing the anguish they feel inside. We need people to grab reality for what it is and proclaim the reality of God’s control through it all. If he hasn’t let go of what is real, then neither should we. We need to stand up and feel the hurt. We need to gather up the pieces of us that made it through and feel the heat. Let it all melt. With the confidence of God’s guidance over your entire life, we can know that when things cool down, the heat we endured through faith will be what purified us. As we are poured into a new world ahead of us, we will take on a new shape, being molded by the hands of God into something new and beautiful. As we walk into a new chapter, by this fire we will be made into something more fitting to the new calling God has in store for us. In that calling, let our testimony be spread to those who also feel cut short of their purpose. Let us be used to spread the news of a greater purpose to them. One that projects its light through all things but never itself dies. Let the gospel be spread through your testimony. The gospel about a man whose life and purpose were seemingly cut short in mans’ perspective. By dying on the cross and raising from the dead, Jesus Christ, having done no wrong, created hope. He gave us reason to have peace and joy in the things we suffer from and wrestle with every day.
This too shall pass. With confidence, we endure and persevere. My hope will always be in the Lord. Though it feels too soon to say goodbye, I look forward to what’s ahead and will cherish even more the next hello.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12
I am grateful for the time here you have given me, Lord. Thank you.