When I was a teenager, my youth pastor just happened to also be my uncle. Therefore, he felt doubly entitled to be all up in my business most of the time. On rare occasions, we would have minor disagreements, and I remember one in particular. Well, I don't remember the exact content, but I think it was about a boy. The conversation did not end with a resolution. It ended with a label: late bloomer. Me...a late bloomer.
I was so offended! What was he talking about?! I was 16, basically grown. I was about to graduate high school (A YEAR EARLY!), most of my friends were 5+ years my senior, and people had boasted of my maturity since I was about 12. Seriously, what did he mean, late bloomer? My life was right on track, if not ahead a little, and I felt like I had it figured out, like most teens do.
Looking back 15 years, I think he may have had a point. I'm still trying to decide whether he is a prophet or whether I lived up to his label. Chicken or the egg?
I find myself labeling students in my head sometimes. Fellow teacher will understand. Any given year, within the first few days, the shooting stars begin to distinguish themselves. You remember them from school. They are among the first to volunteer, and they actually have well thought out answers to back their enthusiasm. Their work is an impressive benchmark, always on time, of course. They don't have 10 zeros, heck, they have none! They are the standouts, the ones that encompass not only skill, but dedication and drive. My brother is this kid.
In my last post, I gave him a hard time about being a bratty kid, and I don't take it back. But somewhere during maturation, he turned into a quite a lovely human. In high school, he was a social butterfly, involved in everything: drumline, sports, clubs, societies, etc. He was well-liked, having friends across the spectrum. He's smart too, y'all. He finished #3 out of 260 something kids, got a full academic scholarship to college, and many other accolades. He's a junior now on the way to his chemical engineering degree, one of the most difficult disciplines to master. He listed the classes he was taking the other day, and it was as if he was speaking a foreign language to me. He holds tightly to his 4.0 GPA while studying, working, and being very involved in ministry. I heard him preach for the first time the other night and was legitimately impressed. And he is 20! A shooting star buzzing right past my face, he makes me so proud!
We can't all be Jeffrey's though. It takes some of us a while to get our greatness worked out. We don't all get things right the first time around...or the second....or sometimes even the third. I came across this article of famous people in our culture that failed before they succeeded. As I read through it, I noticed 3 types of setbacks.
The Bible has kind of been rocking my world lately, so I am going to use some stories to illustrate these setbacks, but don't worry, I won't be boring. Promise.
So, I recently learned of this guy in the Bible named Jepthhah of Gilead. His name phonetically baffles me, so let's call him Jep. He had a rough start as his mother was a prostitute that had abandoned him (maybe because she couldn't pronounce his name, who knows). He grew up with his dad and some half brothers, and when they got old enough to understand the social stigma of shame associated with his birth, the brothers kicked him off the land because they hated the thought of a harlot's son getting their inheritance.
The thing is that Jep was a really awesome warrior, a "mighty man of valour", and there he was banished to the outskirts of town with his band of outlaw followers. The Bible doesn't really say what happens out there, and my imagination kicks into high gear. I see him out in the land of Tob, getting his workout on, muscles gleaming with sweat in the sun. I picture a warrior training montage set to the Rocky soundtrack, a little Eye of the Tiger action.
You can totally see it too now. We've heard these kinds of stories before. As you may have expected, the Gileads were under attack, and they needed a great warrior to lead their armies. Who do you think they called? Yep, it was Jep.
Sometimes people reject you. Maybe they misunderstand you, feel threatened by you, or just disvalue your worth. When this happens, you have two choices: get bitter or get better. Jep chose better, and he led the very people that had cast him away to victory.
He endured setbacks, and God used him. And even though I don't remember him from Sunday School, he is listed among the great men of faith in the New Testament (Hebrews 11).
One of my favorite examples is Abraham. On multiple occasions, God promised Abraham lots of kids, as many as the stars in the sky. I'm sure he had to be wondering what the hold up was because it took a while, like literally 100 years. I thought pregnancy was rough at 29, so I can't even imagine. Actually, I don't want to imagine any part of the baby making process at 100. No videos for this for this example! You're welcome.
I don't pretend to have any idea why things take longer for some people, but sometimes they do. Patience is a hard one for me, and I think it was for Abraham too. It is so tempting to want to make things happen for ourselves when the delay seems to be infinite and darn impossible. I tend to think one of the reasons for delays has a lot to do with maturity. Waiting for things seems to be one of maturity's trademarks.
If I've learned anything through parenting, it's to not tell Jett about something fun we are doing until literally seconds before we are leaving to go there. He has no concept of the term "not yet". When I tell him not yet, he does one of two things. He takes that as no, and drama ensues. Or he incessantly asks when it is going to happen until it drives me to the brink of insanity.
As adults, we aren't that different. I've prayed for things, and it seemed they would never happen. And I have reacted in both tantrum and nagging. The truth is that God's delays are not his denials. "Not yet" doesn't mean "no". Maybe, we aren't ready for the things we want, and God uses that delay as an opportunity to prepare us. Maybe we are praying for meat, but all we can digest at the moment is pureed peas.
Speaking of wannabe carnivores, the children of Israel in Numbers 11 were whining and crying for meat. Even though they were being sustained by manna, they craved the meat they had in Egypt and were driving Moses and God bananas with their asinine requests. Old Testament God was a little more sarcastic then. He stacked the ground like 3 feet high with quail. The people stuffed their face, and it killed them. They didn't need that meat. It wasn't a time for meat. It was a time for relying on God and his promise.
I am so thankful for New Testament Jesus! I'm pretty sure I would have been struck dead by now without his grace. Now, when I ask for things I'm not ready for, he gently tells me to wait and works on me until I'm ready. Our greatest desires granted at the wrong time can be the very thing that destroys us. He knows what we need and when we need it. We just have to trust him and, the hard part, wait!
One story that I can relate to so well is the story of David. This guy started out as a rising star, slaying giants, gaining favor, and even becoming king. Then he made a series of really bad decisions, among which were adultery and premeditated murder. Pretty terrible, huh? We could look at his failures like we often do our own: like an ending. Game over! But's that's not what happened here. David was called out, he changed his heart, and he took the consequences like a man. God didn't stop blessing him, forsake him, or take it all back.
I like this story so much because it is full of grace. Grace isn't just about not getting the punishments we deserve. It's also about getting the good things that we don't deserve.
I think our face-down-in-the-mud experiences make our success that much sweeter. I think that our biggest struggles and challenges are the things that run us right into our destiny. I believe that NOTHING we go through (pain/setbacks/failures) will be wasted when God has his hands in it!!
David had an affair with Bathsheba, and like I said, there were some consequences. But it was also their son, Solomon, that carried on the bloodline and was the wisest man ever! Oh yeah, and David was still called a man after God's own heart.
The Little Tree:
When I moved into my house, there was a little tree in the front flower bed. It was very ill-placed and not getting enough sun, therefore not really growing. So, I decided to dig it up and move it. For a little tree, there were so many roots, and some of them were damaged in the process. I planted it on the other side of the house and waited. Eventually, it just looked dead. Busy with other things, it stayed there for over a year until one spring I noticed some little flowers budding from it. That's odd, I thought. But it kept blooming, and today the tree stands taller than the house.
I am that tree, and some of you are too. Maybe we've been in the wrong place, we've had parts of us ripped from the ground we've lived in, or maybe it just looks like everything we have hoped for it just totally dead. But it's not.
The awesome thing about life is that, until we're dead, we have the potential for growth. There is no such thing as blooming too late. Blooms are always sweet, no matter when they happen. Think of my little tree and the elite list of late bloomers in the Bible, and be encouraged. Before long, you may be towering over buildings in all of your splendorous beauty!
Hey! My name is Andrea. I'm a teacher by day in a small Texas town, but in every other aspect of my life, I consider myself a learner. This blog is about life: learning through experiences, sharing through stories, and growing through faith.