As I sit in my living room on my over-sized yellow chair, the baby is napping, the house is quiet and my walls seem to fade into the background…
I am now sitting in the middle of my bed, legs crossed, indian style, like when you’re a kid… because I am 14. The walls in my room are painted an eggplant purple with pictures of friends plastered around the edges of my mirror. I stare at myself until I can no longer make out the distinct features of my face, but rather they swirl and distort into a blur. Still sitting there, I blink. Slowly. Deliberately.
My eyes refocus and I ask… “What is my purpose? Why am I here?”
I’m not sure who I was asking. Myself or God, maybe both?
You see, a few years prior a missionary to Cambodia had come to my Sunday school class and told stories of her life. The adventures she had and heartache as well. Before praying for the class, in her conclusion, she passed out small cards and asked us to fill it out if we felt God was calling us to missions. I didn’t move, head bowed with eyes tightly closed. My chest was on fire, my heart bursting within me. I left the small classroom, walked right out. Yet, as I walked out I felt as if I was walking away from something, from someone. I quickly turned around and raced back to the room where I filled out my card and put it in the kind missionary’s hand.
I had a dream birth on the inside of me in that moment. A calling of sorts. A purpose.
Flash forward to me sitting in my room just two years later with a door of opportunity in front of me. It was closed, but I was determined to open it. There I sat, crossed-legged, thinking about my predicament. I was 14, and I had just quit our 8th grade track team to get a job. You heard me, a job. I picked up my brother’s paper route and delivered newspapers promptly by 4:30 pm on week days and by 7 am on Sunday. All my hard earned money went directly into a jar that set on top of my dresser. I didn’t spend any of it. I was saving it for the missions trip my youth group was taking that summer. The only problem, I wasn’t supposed to go.
The age cut off for the trip was 15, and my birthday was not for a few days after the group would return. I submitted my application anyway. The rules didn’t apply to me, which is probably why I ended up in that one-on-one meeting with my Youth Pastor in his office. I had to write up an essay of why I wanted to be apart of this particular trip, and we were there to discuss it. I had explained in my essay that I was called into ministry and knew that someday I’d be a missionary. I didn’t know how, but I didn’t want to wait and since this was my purpose in life, why let my age restrict me?
He sat across from me, hands clasped loosely together, fingers interlocked. Staring, silent for just a few moments after I had spoken, as if rehearsing in his mind what he’d say next. I remember the tall metal filing cabinets making the room feel cold and the large calendar smack in the middle of his desk, scribbles marking up the page … that’s where he rested his arms. With a twinge of concern in his voice, he asked me to think about the trip again… The leadership was concerned about how I would act overseas. I had shown a bit of an “attitude” at times and what would I do in an unfamiliar nation when asked to obey? Would I be rebellious? They were unsure and didn’t want to take any chances.
I sat there, stiff, frozen in my chair. His words swirling through my head making me dizzy. My young heart had never been crushed. Not like this. I knew what disappointment was, even failure. But I was taught to get back up and try again until you succeed. I knew this feeling from my peers, friends that betray, but adults? A Youth Pastor. The person that is supposed to look at me, see inside, and believe the greatest things can come of me? To come alongside and encourage me into my destiny in God. I was speechless, but only for a moment. I swallowed hard, choking down my embarrassment and requested he reconsider, since this was MY dream…
He agreed to meet with my parents…
… and they ensured him that I would be on my best behavior.
Spring had passed and I continued to deliver newspapers all summer long until August finally came. My Dad had taken me to get my passport along with a very large suitcase. My mom helped me to pack everything on the recommended list and then some. I was about to take a journey that would lead me to my destiny. In front of our church, two youth groups boarded a large tour bus for our 5 hour trip to New York City. From there we would board the plane that would take us to Venezuela.
I could write so many things about this trip, recalling details even these 15 years later. But, today we are talking about dreams. Not the kind you have when you’re sleeping, but the ones you have when you are standing up, wide awake. The ones that burn deep in your soul. The kind that imprint an image of a little girl in another nation, living out of a cardboard box, thankful for the small piece of candy and sip of water you give her. The face that haunts you as you ask yourself, ‘Why? Why am I here?’. It is her face that drives you to keep going when others tell you that you don’t fit the mold. That maybe you don’t have the right skills or talents. Because you know, if there is one like her than there are others…
Tears roll down my cheeks and I am overwhelmed thinking about the gentle faces of the lives we changed that summer. I think, what if I had never be gone on that trip. Too prideful to say I will listen and obey, too embarrassed to push my way through that closed door. When you are young, you believe you can do the impossible. You believe that with one spark, God will ignite a fire. You dream the grandest of dreams, but you are at the mercy of those who will dream with you.
Will you be a Dream Maker or a Dream Breaker?
1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT) says,”Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”