“For he know the way I go,
And when he tests me,
I will come forth as gold”
Yesterday I turned twenty-one. For my birthday my family and I went out to eat, then went to Orangeleaf to find the location had shut down, and finished with ice cream elsewhere. No alcohol, no purchasing of a firearm, nothing special to celebrate this “turning point”. I’m not upset, in fact I preferred it this way. It was just a normal day. I preferred this transition into “manhood” to be smooth and typical, why? Because I want something to feel right about it. Because honestly I didn’t jump into anything new as I turned a year older.
To think that I’ve already come twenty-one years is a freaky thing. In my life so far I’ve been through heart surgeries, other minors surgeries, recoveries lasting long enough, heartbreak, pain, stress out of the whazoo, crippling fear, going deaf in one ear, sprained ankles, cracked skull, minor arthritis (or at least squeaky joints) and more. I have dealt with a lot, but it isn’t impressive or abnormal. It’s life. And life will continue to happen.
There is no step from being a boy to becoming a man. No POP, now you’re a grown up with facial hair and responsibilities. Responsibilities stack up as you grow, and facial hair? I’ve had that since middle school (that part might be semi-abnormal). Becoming a man is about walking toward a specific future. A specific future surrounded by mystery and unknowns making it feel very not specific. But when you decide on walking down a path, you have chosen a specific future. We can plan all we want for our future, but we do not control the specifics. We just choose between direction when paths diverge.
The future holds more of yesterday. Things will happen, requiring decisions from us. Crap will hit the fan. Your favorite shirt will get a stain. You are never too old to poop your pants. Responsibilities will continue to stack up, and stubble will finally look like intentional facial hair (for some men). Life will continue to bring its battles.
But there is good news. I’ve been through battles and I know you have as well. And these battles we have fought might have been won or lost, long gone or still leaving fresh wounds. But battles bring experience. Becoming a man, or a woman, is about gathering experiences and allowing them to mold you. But they will mold us in the ways we allow them to.
My heart surgery was a battle. Sixteen years old and I wanted to be healthy, yet I was stuck with a fresh scar, bruised ribs, and doctors orders to relearn how to walk. Wanting and being are two separate things. We can only be what we want to be once we have acknowledged who we are and learned how to be where and who we are now. One step at a time I was able to heal. I relearned how to walk, and a month later I relearned how to serve a tennis ball and play tennis again. I learned that the only way to heal is to walk into and through the pain.
I learned the value of being careful with relationships through broken trust and broken dreams. But I learned.
I learned what my initial reaction to serious danger is when I almost bled out in a hospital room last May.
I learned that when you ask for patience, you will be tested past what you thought was your breaking point. I learned that this week.
I believe we have the opportunity to gain wisdom in every experience. The battles we face are preparing us for the future battles. From each battle we can draw strength for the next. We can defeat or be defeated by how we cope with the battles we have won and lost.
But most importantly, each battle brings an opportunity for us to surrender ourselves to the Lord. And in this surrender acknowledging that we need Him to aid in the future battles. Sound cliché? Well sometimes the most truthful things sound cliché because truth is repetitive and abundant. After all, Truth stays the same from yesterday until tomorrow.
So what can I say as I welcome the specific and mysterious future?
For He knows the way I go and when He tests me, I will come forth as gold. I’ve come twenty-one years and gained wisdom because He brought me through each battle. He has purified my heart and has made my scars mean something. I am a battle-hardened son and an heir to glory because He stands victorious over the most important (the only eternally important) battle ever fought. I know not what tomorrow brings but I know that being a man means I’m not in control nor do I have to be. I’m not worried because, though purification hurts, it leaves us stronger and a little bit more like Him.
Here is to twenty-one years of pain and grace. I am thankful for all it has brought and mostly I am thankful for Who has brought me through it.