I wrote this last week, but just never felt like it was ready to be sent out into the world… I wanted to wait for a perfect picture… for the feeling of completion. Instead, I dropped in this photo of my brother walking me down the aisle, a very special experience on one of the best days of my life. It seems a little out of place… but to me it is a picture of God's provision over a difficult circumstance. I hit publish not because this post feels complete, but because it doesn't. The Lord is working something in me that is much larger and that will not be completed until His return. Sometimes, that is immensely frustrating. Other times, it is liberating… like today. Fifteen years ago last week I walked through the most difficult circumstance I have ever experienced. For years, I had ridden to and from the Montgomery Cancer Center. I had seen hopelessness in the eyes of the unimaginably sick and an optimism in light of a harsh reality in others. I saw that optimism in the eyes of my dad. When a bleak diagnosis of living just a few more months hits, I’m not sure how you are suppose to respond, but my dad responded with fight. Months went by, and then years. He fought into remission more than once with a continued joy in the face of odds that were stacked like a tower against him.
And then, tax day hit. My dad had been an accountant all of his working life, and with his unending wealth of humor, it was only appropriate that the day he hated the most out of the year would be the day that he would lose his battle with cancer. As an eleven year old, I don’t know that I really understood all that was going on around me. I just knew that my dad - my best friend and my encourager - would not be coming home again.
Throughout the coming years, holidays were an uphill struggle. Thoughts of my senior daddy-daughter dance and getting married one day with no one to walk me down the aisle would plague me at night, and yet, through it all the Lord was good. He continued to call me deeper, to confirm that this experience was not in vain, and to remind me that I may no longer have an earthly father, but I have a Heavenly Father who knows the pain I feel and cares.
God consistently reminded me that this circumstance would always be a huge part of my story, but it would not define me. This would not be the entirety of my story, nor would it be the end. Sometimes, I think we all need a reminder: You are not defined by the situations that happen in your life.
Life has so many challenges. Whether that be death, failures, financial difficulties, or terrible decisions that have unbelievably difficult consequences, we are not defined by our circumstances. Circumstances teach us, develop our character, and change the way we interact with the world, but they are not our identity. Difficult situations are not a personal attack. Instead, they are an opportunity to be human, to feel emotion, to connect with others who have had similar circumstances, and to see that God is still good even when it hurts.
I am not defined by my childhood, and you are not defined by yours. You are not defined by who your parents are, the job you were not able to keep in college, or the mistakes you made that were broadcast all over the school. The effect they have had on your life is real, but I hope that we can begin to see these situations and effects as opportunities and not as detriments.
I struggle with what to do with this sometimes. I know that God has used and continues to use this part of my story to connect with others and to bring Him glory. If anything, I hope this is a call to live differently; to cast off the victim mentality and begin truly living by choosing joy and life over disappointment and failures. I hope that it gives you the strength to be honest about your circumstances, because they are not your identity. By dealing with our own stuff, maybe we can realize everyone has junk in their life that they’d rather not carry around and extend grace upon grace. After all, don’t we all need it? I know I do. I pray we will see others through the lens of grace rather than through their circumstances.
Cut the chains that drag you down because of the weight you have been carrying. It no longer defines who you are, and it doesn’t define what you are capable of or what your future will look like. Cling tight to the promise. You are defined as a masterpiece made by the very hands of God.