Last night we had our monthly club gathering in Huntington Beach. There was the usual fun, silly games, a yummy dinner, friends and their mentors hanging out and toddlers running around giggling – an overall great evening that is what club is all about! We were especially encouraged to welcome 4 girls who came to club for the very first time! And 6 teens met with local college staff before club started to talk about next steps for going to college! After dinner, the kids were checked into childcare with amazing and loving volunteers and the rest of us sat down for the club talk. But tonight instead of one person sharing, we had the distinct privilege to hear the stories of four of our volunteers.
As the volunteers started sharing, the room fell silent. These weren’t just “ordinary stories”. We quickly realized they were raw, personal, heart wrenching stories. Each of them shared honestly and boldly about the rough turns their lives had taken, about finding themselves at the end of their ropes, and about God’s undeserving, flawless grace that redeemed them. As I listened to each of them share, I was struck by their bravery. If you’ve ever been at the end of yourself, you understand that it’s not really a place you want to go back to. You don’t want to relive the pain, the hurt, the shame of bad choices you made. But these men and women courageously took us there for one reason – they wanted all of us (volunteers, mentors, teen moms and teen dads alike) to know that God will redeem our stories. Every single one of them. They are living proof of that. Because these aren’t just stories they share, it is who they are. Each of them is wholeheartedly serving God with their lives. And instead of letting their past define them, they are choosing to allow Him to use the pain of the past to bring Him glory.
And as I looked around the room, it occurred to me that I was surrounded by some of the bravest people I’ve ever met. In addition to these amazing volunteers and many more like them, I was sitting in a room with dozens of teen moms and dads. Teens who chose life for their children. Teens who chose the really difficult path of raising their children while they are still in high school. Teens who had to change schools or take on independent study because of their pregnancy. Teens who are raising their babies alone. Teens who are determined to create a better life for their children. Teens who love their babies. Teens who are making daily sacrifices for their children. And teens who are learning about Jesus, how much He loves them and just how amazing His grace is.
So often I feel like I’m failing. Failing as a mom, failing as an employee, failing as a friend, a sister, a daughter. And I’m quick to be hard on myself for everything I’m not doing well. But sitting in that room, God gently reminded me that I am exactly who He made me to be – strengths, weaknesses, successes and failures. He delights in ALL of me. His grace is sufficient for ALL of me. And it is Christ who makes me brave too. It’s not a competition of who is the most brave. It’s not about doing it all. And it’s certainly not about doing it all on my own. But rather, it’s trusting that God has a plan for every single one of us. And even better? His plan is PERFECT and each of us can choose to (bravely!) walk out the life God has set before us – weaknesses, brokenness, hurts, pain and all! It’s about living life in community with other believers. It’s about letting Him redeem our stories for His glory. And it’s about bravely being me…His masterpiece.
“For we are Christ’s workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)