There are defining moments in each of our lives; moments where we must decide who we are and where we stand. Here are a few of mine:
– I was nine years old when my fourth-grade teacher asked me to stay after class for a minute. I had recently moved from Utah to Arizona and had struggled mightily to find friends in my new school.
My teacher told me that she understood my plight and asked me to pick two students from the class with whom I wanted to be friends, assuring me that she would do her best to encourage them to include me. That was, perhaps, the first time I wondered if I was incapable of making friends on my own. (P.S. Not much changed after my teacher talked to my dream friends about me.)
– I was 16 years old when a boy whom I considered to be one of my best friends told me that he no longer wanted to associate with me. He asked me not talk to him at all, which was crushing since he gave me no explanation and I had no idea what I had done to ruin our friendship.
Three months later, my best friend in the whole world who knew the details of my life better than anybody started dating the boy I liked behind my back, knowing exactly how I felt about him. When I found out, I was still dealing with the aftermath of losing a dear friend for no apparent reason. The proverbial rug had been ripped out from underneath me and I suddenly felt like I had no friends whom I could trust, which was emotionally devastating.
– I was 18 years old, living in the dorms at BYU as a brand new freshman when my family’s financial situation turned desperate. While money had always been scarce, this time threatened to sink us, leaving me feeling inconsolably guilty for being away at school and unable to help keep food on my family’s table.
– I was 24 years old when I moved with my young family across the country so that my husband could attend dental school. A series of events caused me to question the faith of my youth, and I was, for a time, unsure of what to believe because I had more questions than answers.
– I was 35 years old when my youngest, who was four at the time, was diagnosed with a rare bone condition that resulted in three surgeries, numerous complications, and the inability to walk for almost a year. We were simultaneously faced with a series of challenges unrelated to his health that felt like they would never end, causing me to wonder if I had the strength to keep pressing forward.
Looking back on these events, I can feel the pain and frustration almost as clearly as if they had happened yesterday. Each one of them threatened to break my spirit and forced me to decide who I was, what I was made of, and which direction I wanted to take my life.
If I could go back and have a talk with my younger self in the midst of such trials, I would tell her to keep her chin up and not to worry too much, even when it was difficult to put one foot in front of the other, because everything would eventually work out.
I would tell her that it is OK to be sad, but such feelings would be temporary – that heartache would eventually turn to light and understanding.
I would tell her that kneeling in prayer would give her the strength to press forward. Every. Single. Time.
I would tell her not to allow anybody’s actions or opinions to define her – that she was in charge of her own destiny.
I would tell her that, while she may not be able to choose what happens to her, she does get to decide how to react. And attitude makes all the difference.
I would tell her that forgiving may be the hardest thing she would ever do, but allowing herself to harbor grudges would destroy her peace quicker than anything else.
I would tell her that she would one day be oddly grateful for every heart-wrenching challenge because of the perspective that would come from being thrown into the fire and somehow emerging with greater strength.
Life is unpredictable. Every one of us will have experiences that test us to the very edge of our capacity to endure, and that is where growth happens. That is where we learn that we are capable of more than we ever imagined. That is where we learn to trust and rely on the Lord who knows all things, including what we have the capacity to become and how we can achieve our potential.
That is where we learn that we can either wallow in self-pity or choose to move forward with hope, despite underlying frustration, worry, and pain.
While there are many things I would do differently if I could go back in time, erasing my trials would not be one of them. They are the very things that shaped me into the person I am today, one defining moment at a time. They, in the midst of doubt, fear, and grief, taught me how to stand.
Can you pinpoint any defining moments of your own? What have you learned as a result of facing and overcoming hard things? Feel free to share in the comments section below.