Growing Pains

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”
(Isaiah 46:10)
My last semester in college, I took Speech 101.  My teacher had written the textbook, literally, on making speeches.  And I had visions, dreams, ambitions of standing before great crowds, speaking and singing.  Problem with that dream was, I was shy and afraid.  So, I dreamt of a future where I wasn’t afraid.  I thought that taking a speech class would improve my ability to speak before audiences and get rid of my stage fright.  I put a lot of faith in that plan.  It would be my cure-all and the perfect solution to my problem.  My salvation.
I wrote my first speech and delivered it in front of the class.  I was a good writer so I guess I anticipated a good grade.  But when I got my graded speech from the teacher, I was stunned.  She had scrawled across the front:  “Next time remove the gum from your mouth for clear articulation!”  What?  Huh?  How was that possible?  I didn’t even have any gum in my mouth!  I was indignant, dismayed and discouraged.  I knew that I didn’t have any talent as a public speaker – that’s why I was taking her darned class!  I thought she could help me.  But she didn’t.  Apparently, she couldn’t work miracles.  I was so discouraged that I dropped a class for the first time, ever.
I carried that memory with me my whole life.  Even as I was thrust into leadership roles, I knew in the back of my mind that I was no leader.  Even as I gained more courage to sing from my soul, I knew that I had no stage presence.  Even as I was thrown into situations that required me to speak publicly, I knew I still sounded like I had gum in my mouth.
So imagine my surprise when I was drafted into a speaking role at my church one day and the minister replied, “It makes sense because you’re such a natural.”  Uroo?  (In my Astro voice – from the Jetson’s)  Wait, I mean, what?  “You’re a natural –you have such a wonderful speaking voice.”  As I continued to look at her in a strange way, it dawned on her.  “You’ve never been told that before?”  No, never. 
I recounted that story to my friend and counselor and she had this to say:  That disappointing experience with my speech teacher then, prompted me to be more careful when I speak, thus causing me to become a better speaker today.  That experience molded me and made me who I am.  Even as I believed what she’d written on my paper, I persevered.  I still tried.  I spoke in public settings.  I sang before audiences.  I became the girl in my vision.  God’s will was accomplished in my life, not only in spite of the adversity I’d faced but because of it.  Amen.
It occurred to me then, and now, that some of the things that have happened in my life NEEDED to happen, just so I could get where I am supposed to be.  That means every disappointment or setback, every victory and exultation, every challenge; every obstacle has a purpose and a meaning.  And God uses every single one of them, nothing’s wasted, to get me to the place where He has determined and ordained that I should be.
I think of the history of Israel and how Solomon’s death created a rift that split the kingdom in two.  Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, maintained control of two tribes and was about to go to war with his brethren.  But God revealed that splitting the kingdom in two was actually his plan to save a remnant of Israel.  The two tribes comprising Judah, Rehoboam’s portion, are likely the remnant that is recognized today as the nation of Israel.  The other ten tribes did not survive as a nation and were conquered and assimilated into the surrounding cultures.  So the separation, which was painful, ultimately served God’s purpose of preserving his people. 
Then there was the early Christian church which was persecuted after the crucifixion of Jesus.  They were forced into hiding, fearing for their lives.  Their fears were justified, eventually resulting in the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.  This seemed to be a horrifying turn of events and the Christians fled their homeland, on the lam but also, taking the good news where ever they went.  So that really horrible thing turned out to be the catalyst that made the Gospel available to the world.  Even then, God used that situation to bring about his good purpose. 

I have many regrets. For a time, my failed marriage was one.  Even though I thought I was over it, I wasn’t.  Not completely.  There was still residual anger and pain from how things ended between us.  I could go on and on, at times, ranting about it.  Lately, I seemed to be doing more and more of that.  But going forward, I resolve to remember something else.  The person I am today, I owe, in part, to my ex-husband.  Not just because the pain of divorce changed me and made me wiser.  Besides my children, I owe some very good things about my life to him.
I get my outgoing nature from his example.  He was the opposite of me – charismatic, gregarious and extroverted.  Shy was not in his vocabulary.  He just barreled right through his fear and waited on the other side to receive his due praise.  I picture him, hands upraised in a victorious pose, Ta-Da!  When it came to performing for God, he had no reservations.
Introverted by nature, I prayed for boldness.  I realized my shy demeanor stemmed from fear of how my performance would be received.  It held me back until I learned to perform for myself and God, alone.  Once I no longer worried about my reception, I was free of debilitating shyness.  Pretty soon, I started to be very much like my (then) husband.  So I’m thankful for his influence.
Even if I could do it again, would I change any of it?  If pressed, I’d have to admit:  He is part of who I am and how I came to be.  I wouldn’t change who I am now.  I like who I am now.  I know who I am now.  I can’t even wish I’d never met my ex-husband or that we’d never gotten married.  So I choose to let go of the last vestiges, the bitter remains of any anger or hurt that linger. 
After battling drug addiction, Natalie Cole came out of rehab and was interviewed by Oprah.  She was asked, “If you had it to do over again, what would you change?”  Natalie replied, “Nothing because everything I went through made me who I am.”  Yeah, I get that.  Now, I can appreciate and accept that God used these events to get me where I always wanted to be. 
Be blessed,