Thanksgiving 2018: Freedom from Fear

After I graduated, I stopped wearing my Baylor Class Ring for the first time since the Spring of 2017, when I received it. My reason? The ring became a daily reminder of my loss: leaving the university I loved without the certainty of returning as a student. You see, I had applied for graduate school at Baylor, but the process for my particular degree program of choice was a long one. When the official word came that I was not accepted into the program due to a limited number of spots, I felt like a failure and the ring became a symbol of my shame. I didn’t want anyone to know about my rejection, and I wanted to pretend that my Baylor chapter hadn’t even happened at all. I thought I’d been pursuing the right path, that I had read the signs of my calling correctly—only to find out that God had a different idea, at least for my immediate future. One that, quite frankly, I didn’t like very much at first. Thankfully I’ve begun to recognize the good in what He’s doing in me and, for the most part, I’ve stopped rebelling against it.

Earlier this month, I headed down to Waco for my first Homecoming as an alumna, feeling many of the same emotions I had when I’d left the university in May: shame, embarrassment, afraid and wanting to hide. I felt anxious about how I would respond to the dreaded questions of “How are you?” and “What’re you doing these days?” but I wanted to be honest with my answers. After all, I was going to see friends, mentors—people who care about me. And, interestingly enough, when I decided to let my walls down and chose to be honest, I realized that though my life isn’t ideal by my standards and though nothing has gone the way I had planned it to…I have a great life. A very blessed life. God is so, so gracious to me. While that alone enough for a great life, I have even more to be thankful for.

At Homecoming, I embraced that joy I found in discovering the truth. I embraced those who I’m thankful for. I came out of the week refreshed—and challenged.

Because one single lingering strand of shame remained: my rejection from graduate school at Baylor.

I had spent the past six months hiding from my hurt by pretending I didn’t care. By voicing an excuse that it was for the best since I’m not naturally gifted to go into the profession my intended master’s would have prepared me for. But a good friend called me out on those excuses and challenged me with questions. Our conversation, among other things, helped me to realize that all my excuses I made as reasons for not reapplying to the program boiled down to my fear of being rejected a second time. I was afraid of wounding my pride again. Of being wrong again.

So I prayed about it and came to clearly recognize I was letting fear hold me back. That in itself was going back on my commitment to courage, my decision to live a life full of bravery.  I was in danger of backsliding into my pre-college life of shyness, fear, and using “introversion” as an excuse.

I don’t want to go back to that life.

Hence why I’m reapplying to Baylor amidst other applications for jobs and other graduate degree programs. Because who am I to close doors prematurely? Isn’t it better to give it all up to God, hold my potential futures loosely, and let Him write the story? It doesn’t mean I do nothing and expect Him to magically open doors. Instead, I act in faith and let Him lead the way.

Honestly, I have no clue what God’s calling me to do or where He’s calling me to be. At least, I don’t have a clear picture. I know I’m passionate about writing. I have a desire to welcome people in with open arms and sit them in their brokenness. I want to challenge people to grow personally and in their faith. I hope to use my gifts to truly help people in a meaningful way. But what does this look like? I have no clue. As a natural planner, this idea of a fuzzy picture of the next step (and next ten or so years of my life) seems like it would drive me crazy. But…it doesn’t. Surprisingly.

I never expected how freeing it is to throw open every possible door and just fall into His arms, to follow where He leads. To not let fear limit or sabotage me. To not let my controlling tendencies trap me in despair.

I’m so thankful for this revelation, despite the fact that to get to it I needed to go through some of the hardest months of my life. I’m thankful for the past year because it’s strengthened my faith, my relationships, and who I am. I’m thankful for my Baylor experience—I’m wearing the Ring right now, a reminder of the work He’s done and will continue to do in me, regardless of whether I return to my alma mater as a student or not. I’m thankful for the people who have supported me and continue to do so today. And I’m incredibly thankful for a God who loves us so much He’s willing to be patient with us, prune us so we grow more in love with Him, and who paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could be with Him forever, healing us of every sin and hurt in our lives. I rejoice in that in this difficult season. Whatever may happen next, I am so grateful to have my Lord walking alongside me every step of the way.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.