I had the best blessing this morning to speak at my high school’s FCA. I’m thankful for the opportunity to speak wisdom back into the students who are literally sitting where I sat. It was such an honor and privilege! Thank you Annie Skoneki and FCA Sponsor, Coach Jessica Owens for having me.
I never really felt good enough in middle school or high school.
I had three things that really pressed on me for who I was “supposed to be”.. I felt pressure to make straight A’s, to be the star athlete, and be friends with everyone. And I was not those things.
If I don’t make straight A’s, I’m not good enough.. and I did not make straight A’s. I was not really cut out for academics, which can be really hard at school. Especially a school like mine because it is an academic driven college preparatory school. Students were recognized for their grades in National Honor Societies and National Merritt Finals, as they should be. But I was not. I graduated with no cords, no “cum laude” or honors.. I was just thankful they let me have the tassel.. and flip it. That was an honor, but back then I was bogged down in the pressure of feeling like a “bad student” with bad grades and bad attendance.
If I’m not the star athlete, I’m not good enough.. I was 5’6 in 5th grade and 5’10 by 8th grade. Everyone told me I should be playing every sport. “Why aren’t you playing volleyball?” “Why don’t you play basketball?” I got hurt playing basketball in 9th grade and could not play volleyball or basketball after that. Sports were my go-to and I could still play softball, which I loved every minute of being on a team, winning or losing. But back then I was bogged down in the pressure of not being able to play to my full potential in every sport.
If I’m not friends with everyone, I’m not good enough.. As a “Christian,” I felt the pressure that I was supposed to be friends with everyone and everyone was supposed to like me and think good things about me. I was supposed to be picked for peer leader and homecoming attendant and homecoming queen.. none of which I was. I had great friends, but back then I was bogged down in the pressure of not being the outgoing one, with the great personality and leader of so many great things at our school.
Like these labels of scholar, athlete and outgoing friend.. there are a lot of labels in middle school and high school that we strive for (or as an adult, we even strive for labels in our workplaces, as a mom or wife, or in our churches) that are not what signifies our worth in the big picture or who we really are on the inside.
Some “labels” are strictly worldly and do not set our identity outside the role which it has been given. And some “labels” attest to what ultimately matters which is who we are in Christ. If we truly love Jesus, we will not want to be the one known for cussing, partying, being up to no good, knowing all the gossip, or being involved in all the drama. Loving Jesus gives me the desire to be known for Him and for people to know Jesus through my life and to remember more about Jesus than they do about me.
Being remembered as the state champion, the 4.0 gpa, the partier, the class president, the class clown, the teacher’s pet.. will not be who you are when you are out of high school or out of college. Maybe it is just me, I have never had anyone ask me my GPA, or if I was in SGA or Leadership Council or if I was a peer leader or homecoming queen. Nobody asks me if I won that volleyball state championship the year we played 5 sets to lose the tie breaker. But people remember who sat with them at the lunch table when nobody else would, they remember who helped them pick up their books when they dropped everything in the hallway, they remember the one who let them cry on their shoulder when they were having a bad day, or sat with them in the office when they almost tore off their thumb in an intense tug of war face off (that’d be me). Who you are.. who Christ makes you when you follow Him, that’s what matters.
While good grades, sports teams, friendships and all that comes along with high school is fun and part of it, most of it is not who you are when you are older. I am not saying to not enjoy it while you are there.. live in the moment, enjoy every minute of it, try your hardest. But see the big picture of who you are. I absolutely love my school and I loved my time there but it is over before you know it. And the worldly things I accomplished (or really in my case, did not accomplish) in high school really do not matter anymore.
“The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness.
I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.” Phil 3:7-11 MSG
“All things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant. I’ve dumped it all so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him… I gave it all up to know Christ personally.” Oh my heart. May we all experience this passion to know Him. May we count all labels, all earthly treasures, all pressures, all desires to be what the world tells us to be as loss and give it all away in return for knowing the Living Savior who died for us. Everything He did was for us so that we could live in who He makes us to be.
I had a friend recently say something about her late child that has stuck in my mind.. she said all of their trophies, medals, awards and earthly possessions are in the attic collecting dust and he is not here. Rings in my heart because she gets it on this painful other side.. what matters is Jesus Christ. Who her child is remembered as in Christ.
I am extremely thankful for my teachers who saw past the C (and lower) student I was and loved me straight into ministry. My rock, Mrs. Simon; my sweet support, Mrs. Lankford; my lightening laughter and trusting friend, Mrs. Parquette; my loving comfort, Mrs. Jabour; my incredible encourager, Mrs. Everett; my trusting believer, Mrs. Richardson; my tutor, my study partner, my mentor, Mrs. Atkins; My sweet calm in the anxiety, Mrs. Reifenberg; my steady wisdom, Mrs. Majors; my breath of fresh air, Mrs. Hughes; my partner in crime, Mrs. Timmerman and my challenger, my mentor, my honest (tough) love, my confidant, my friend and so much more, Mrs. Sherlin. Some of my hardest times were dealt with in counselors’ offices and teacher’s classrooms, but some of my sweetest, most treasured times were in those same places too. I was never really cut out for academics but I found my call to ministry while in middle school and started my ministry while in high school. And these teachers, whether they knew it or not, were there for me through the tough seasons and tough days believing in me and loving me.
You have an unique plan mapped out just for you. And it will be the complete best for your life: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
When you call on Him, you will find who you are but you have to trust Him with who you are and know that who you are in Christ never goes away: “Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” 12-14a
Know that the Lord will determine your steps, prayerfully and wisely follow Him and you cannot mess it up: “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:3, 9
God has us in the exact season of our lives He wants us to be in and where He can use you for the most glory.. so hard teacher, mean boss, horrible job.. ultimately, you are serving the Lord: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men,” Colossians 3:23 “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people,” Ephesians 6:7
Focus on who God sees you to be, instead of what the world tells you you should be. His plans for who we are is the big picture of life.