January marks my 35th year of life - Jan. 22nd, more specifically. This was the day that I was brought into this world. Throughout my years, my mother has reminded me, again and again, that she had the power to take me out. This life has been a good life so far, one in which I feel like I have grown quite a bit.
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However, it doesn't appear like this at first glance. If one were to look at me, they could easily think that I stopped growing a LONG time ago. And at first glance, they would be correct. I reached my height challenge state of 5 foot 5 inches early on in my career. I started to grow outward more than upward. However, if one thought my growth ceased at that point, they would have been mistaken. The truth is that I have spent much of my time in this world living and growing.
Sometimes living doesn't feel very good. Having a child born through an emergency C-section. Experiencing a divorce. Having family members that experience bpoverty. Close friends using drugs. Feeling the effect of alcohol on family members. These are just some of the experiences of living. And it doesn't feel very good. However, I do believe that through living comes growing. And it is amazing the places and people God has used to facilitate this growth.
It is very likely that you, as well, have been growing. And events in your life have helped you see things in a different light. Experiences you have had allow you to help your neighbor going through similar times. They will allow you to offer insight that someone who hasn't gone through your experiences wouldn't be able to offer.
I struggle with the language that God has a plan for you. It isn't that I don't believe that God helps, guides and walks with us. But language like "a plan," makes it seem as if God caused bad things to happen just so that you can be a blessing to someone else. This, I believe, could not be farther from the truth.
However, I do believe that God can, and does, take what has happened to you, and out of the ashes of our pain, brings about new life. God brings new life out of our hurt souls, and uses our experiences for the bettering of our neighbor, the world, and ourselves.
As I look over the past 35 years of my life, and see the experiences that have helped me grow, I am amazed. They are areas that I would not have chosen to happen to me. And if I could go back, I would probably not choose to go through them again. But, looking at those experiences, I can see a God who helped me through. I can see a God that took me by the hand, and ultimately took the worst experiences of my life and reshaped them. So as I see them now, I know that God is using my life to help me grow, to help me help others, and listen with understanding and empathy.
Where is God acting in your life? How is God helping you to grow? And where is God leading you this day? It is an amazing life, and God wants to experience it with you.
John W. Stevens is the pastor at Resurrection Lutheran Church.