(June 2016, Somewhere in a palace in Europe)
I was the girl who was going to do something with her life.
Ever since I was a little girl I have been very ambitious and hungry for what life has to offer. ‘Apathetic’ is a word that is simply not in my vocabulary.
It’s easy to understand why I’m that way; I grew up in a stable, loving home with two parents who both had PhDs and siblings who were just as passionate about their goals and dreams as I was about mine. As a family, we found joy in learning. My parents always made a point to introduce my siblings and I to different foods, music, places, and pastimes; they never wanted to hide us from the world and always encouraged free thinking.
When people talked about me, they would say: “She’s going to make it big” or “She’s going to get out of here as soon as she can.”
Growing up in a small town means having everyone know everything about you. Or, at least, they think they do. I went to school with the same people from kindergarten all the way to my senior year in high school. After a while you and those people begin to label each other and, well, those labels stick. If you’re like me, then you have found yourself trying to live up to the labels that have been placed on you by other people. To some, I was ‘The Smart One’, to others, I was ‘So Perfect and Talented’. Look, I’m not trying to compliment myself. We’re about to get to the truth in a minute so hang in there. With every compliment I was payed, my head got bigger and bigger. I would tell myself: “I’m going to leave all these people behind and never look back,” or “I’m going to make something of myself and prove to everyone that I’m someone important.” Let’s be honest, we’ve all thought these things to ourselves before. The problem is. . .
It hasn’t quite turned out that way for me.
For those of you reading that don’t know: I’m a Christian. This means that I have dedicated my life to serving God and His kingdom; I’ve surrendered everything I am and my plans to Him. So you can imagine that when I heard from God regarding my future, it was bittersweet.
I had all of these plans. I was ready to pack up my room and my cat in Texas and head to Missouri to study musical theatre at a four year university. I had told every person I knew about what was waiting for me after I graduated high school. I had even filled a box in my room over the course of my senior year with pictures and gifts from friends that I planned on displaying in my dorm room.
Then one night as I was sitting alone in my bedroom, I heard a voice inside of me saying: “Stay.” No booming dialogue from the clouds. No angel on my shoulder. Just: “Stay,” as quiet as a whisper. Immediately, I began crying; I was so confused. I wondered: “Is this God or is it just me thinking about how much I’m going to miss home?” I didn’t know how I was going to make a decision, so I did anything a typical teenage girl would do: I ran to my mother and cried. Through all the hysteria and tears we came to a decision: I would stay home for a year and then we would go from there.
So that’s what I did and here I am a year later.
I worked, went to community college, traveled, and served in my church. This past year has been exciting and fun, but there have been many times where I have screamed: “WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY LIFE?!”
Because I wasn’t that girl. I wasn’t the girl who was unsure. I wasn’t the girl who didn’t have a plan. I was the girl who knew what she wanted. I was the girl that always knew how to make the right decision. I was the girl who had known what she wanted to do for the rest of her life since she was 5 years old. Yet suddenly, I wasn’t that girl anymore; I was the girl who was first described: the unsure girl.
I would get so frustrated when I would run into people I had known from high school and they would ask me: “So what are you doing now that you’ve graduated?” because I wouldn’t exactly have the answer. If I have learned anything while loving Jesus and serving in ministry, it’s that: “I’m waiting on The Lord,” is not an adequate response to that question for some people. So when people would ask me the ‘What are you doing with your life’ question I would tell half-truths a lot: “Oh, you know I’m going to community college and I plan on transferring to a university soon!” or “I’ve been in a few musicals and plan on auditioning and being cast in plays and films for the rest of this year!” To be fair to myself, most of the time I thought my answer was completely truthful and aligned with what I was planning to do. However, deep down I had no idea what I was doing.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I finally found out why I stayed.
I attended the Youth For the Nations church camp in Dallas, Texas as a youth leader earlier this month with my youth group. As a leader, I attended multiple leadership sessions with my youth pastors and other youth leaders from my church. There was one leadership session that especially touched my heart.
There were a lot of phrases that jumped out at me and many things that the Holy Spirit laid on my heart during Pastor Jamie Bates’ sermon, but when she began speaking about some of her discoveries while serving in ministry that’s when the answer I had been searching for for a whole year came to me.
Pastor Jamie said: “You know, it’s never the people you think that make it in ministry; especially when you’re involved in youth ministry. One minute you have this student who’s so promising and then they go off to college and get completely involved in this whole other crazy lifestyle and lose touch with who Jesus is.”
And God spoke to me in that moment and said: “Cameron, college would have destroyed you.” Sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but let me explain. When God said those words to me I immediately knew what He meant. If I would have left my family, my home, and my church I would have been completely uprooted and swept away into a lifestyle I wasn’t meant to live.
I’m not saying I’ll never go to college. I’m not saying that college is a bad thing. I’m not saying that if you go to a four year university you are automatically involved in a non-Christian lifestyle. I’m not saying you can’t go to college and still be a Christian. I am telling you that I was not deeply rooted enough in my faith to leave. I am telling you that college at this particular moment in my life is not for me. I know that reading that last sentence hurt some of you, but, trust me, it hurt me even worse when I heard it from Heaven.
But you know what I’ve realized in the past few weeks? If going to college and having ‘the college experience’ right now means jeopardizing the call of God I have on my life then I don’t want it.
Here is an example: If a tree is not deeply rooted enough in the soil that it’s in, then its trunk will sway in the wind. But a tree that is deeply rooted has a strong trunk and therefore does not sway in the wind or at the first sign of trouble.
In other words, I don’t need to ‘sow my wild oats’ I’m too busy growing my roots.
I was so afraid that I wasn’t going to have ‘the college experience’, meet new people, or make new friends. But you know what? When you fall madly and completely in love with Jesus, your desires change.
Now, I desire to be a world changer and to pour into and love people; not attend wild parties with people who will never help me grow.
Now, I have met new people through ministry conferences and camps; that’s what ministry is: meeting new people!
Now, I have made lifelong friends that I laugh, cry, eat, watch movies, and do ministry with.
Can I share a few secrets with you?
Not going to college right after high school does not make you a loser.
And sometimes, college isn’t for everyone. Maybe you want to go to ministry school or go to a technical school or simply just wait on The Lord like I am; that’s ok! Stay busy. Stay motivated. Stay passionate.
It’s ok to not know everything 100% of the time.
That one speaks for itself.
I have grown more in the year after I graduated high school than I did from the age 15 to 18.
You are not the same person that you were in high school. Trust in God and be honest with yourself in the growing process.
So what is my answer now to the ‘What are you doing with your life?’ question?
I’m serving in my church. I’m ministering to young people. I’ve traveled to five countries. I’m hanging out with my friends: praying with them, helping them move into new homes, traveling with them, watching them raise their children, seeing them get married. I’m spending time with my family. I’m listening to new music, tasting new foods, and trying new things. I’ve found someone I love who loves Jesus and loves me. I’m being rooted.
What about you?
(P.S. “A David Psalm: Forget that I sowed wild oats; mark me with your sign of love. Plan only the best for me, God!”
-Psalm 25:7 MSG )