I asked Rachel to think back to a time when she wished she had the perspective she has today and consider what she would say to herself then, knowing what she does now.
You were a freshman in high school. You lived in the blazing desert of Arizona, in a place you called home since you were 5 and your earliest memories began. You were deeply rooted there, in a white stucco house with a red tile roof and a pool out back that’s surrounded by cacti. You were rooted in a church you have called yours since it met in an elementary school cafeteria, a church that has now grown to what many would call a mega-church, full of people you know and love well. You were rooted in a group of friends that all go to that church—you’ve all been close for years, that mix of guys and girls and millions of memories. You were rooted. You were home. You were safe.
It happened slowly, the changes that came that year. Your dad started looking for other jobs, some in Texas, one in Colorado, some on the East coast. It was talk at first, it was looking at options, making sure there was a back-up plan just in case. But then it got serious, and the list of pros about moving grew longer than the list of cons, and it started looking more and more likely. The house went on the market. Dad moved across the country to start the new job in a state you only knew because your grandparents lived there.
Your mom, your brother and you all stayed to finish the calendar year out before making the move. It was freshman year. High school had just started for you. You were a Hamilton husky, you were an honors student, you were involved, you had new friends and still all the old ones, you probably had a boy you liked.
You had to leave it all.
You rang in the new year in a hotel room because the new house wasn’t quite ready for you yet. You watched Disney channel shows until midnight with your brother, holding a teddy bear from that boy and trying to fight back the tears of feeling so alone.
That was the start of hating New Years for you. You didn’t see any light in that dark tunnel. You only saw unknowns, shadows, worries, fear. You saw crowds of unfamiliar faces closing in on you in the hallways, preppy fashion styles you thought looked ridiculous, everyone having friends to laugh with except you.
You spent weeks crying on the couch after school, feeling hopeless and desperate and distraught. You fought battles that were big and cruel and ugly with girls who were good at their catty games. You fell in love with someone who didn’t treat your heart quite right and gave it back two years later a lot more bruised and battered. You had a hard road for those four years. Lots of voices rang around you telling you these were the best years of your life and you would miss them when they were gone, and you prayed every day that they were wrong.
Sweet, sweet girl… I’m you. I’m older now and high school (and college, too) is a thing of the past. I conquered it. I made it.
I see that girl, curled up in a ball in a big bed, crying all night long, so alone and so sad. Oh, girl. You saw the worst of the worst, and I know how hard it all was. What you couldn’t see is that you are beloved. What you didn’t see is that you are brave. What you didn’t see is that you are beautiful. You were bigger than the bad. You felt small, and the world made that worse, but you weren’t.
The ugly things hurt you. They were like burrs that got stuck in that aching heart of yours, and you couldn’t shake them free. But you were in the hands of a gentle God, and He knew every beat of that tender and hurting heart, and He was setting them to a rhythm of His perfect grace. That beat felt choppy for so long, it felt disjointed. To you, it sounded a lot like when you used to bang the piano keys in frustration as a kid.
Looking back, I hear a sweet melody as the soundtrack to those years. Yes, it’s played on a lot of minor keys, and it’s dark and deep at times, but it’s so beautiful. It’s a song of persistence, of holding on, and of strength coming from a Savior when you felt so lost. It’s a song of dips to new lows, but those lows built in you a strong foundation, a new system of even stronger roots.
You have no idea that those years of struggle are just those new roots growing through rocky soil. You broke free from those years and found a community in college you could never have imagined.
All of a sudden, your melody of lows had harmonies joining in to bring you higher. The song got sweeter, lighter, fuller. It pierced the sky with clear notes of joy and life and hope. Your roots grew deep and strong, and you grew to blossom and bloom from that foundation.
I’m singing a new song now, but every now and then, those low notes echo in my song. They bring a richness and a depth I never knew my song would have. The Composer of my song is glorious and magnificent and excellent at His work, and He’s not finished with me yet.