I Graduated 20 Years Ago {Veering from the Predictable Path}

The class of 1994.

grad announcement

Twenty years since my high school graduation.

I hate to sound like my grandmother, but it seems like yesterday {most days}.

On June 1, 1994, I took my seat as one of three valedictorians at Poca High School.  Dallas, Jason, and I were rebels {sorta}, decorating our caps with a W, a V, and a U for West Virginia University, the college we’d all be attending.

My proud dad tried to tape (VHS!) my valedictory speech, but he’d pressed pause.  He couldn’t see the word on the screen because the words were hidden in the flowers placed on the podium.  Still makes me smile today.

I’ll spare you a 20 year reflection.  Of course, looking back, if you’d have told me I’d be sitting in this seat in 20 years, I’d never have believed you.  My instinct is to say…

Thank God they do not check in with past “Most Likely to Succeed” superlative winners.

Because…

By culture’s standards, I’ve not succeeded.  A year ago…I looked like success {emphasis on the word looked}.  Today, not so much.

Because when you “fail,” you realize your measure of success – the “American dream”  measure of success {Bigger and better.  A big house, nice car.  Perfect family.  Talented children. Insert your own pressures here.} is broken and elusive.

I began to realize this while sitting at On the Border in Columbus, Ohio, with three of my closest friends.  During our conversation about the public education system, I said I was valedictorian and mentioned I took AP Calculus so I could be valedictorian.

My friend, Krysten, looked at me and said, “Why? Why did you want to be valedictorian?” {As if I were crazy;}

And, I had no idea.  I wanted to “beat” the boys.  But, otherwise? Clueless.

My parents didn’t expect it.  I wanted to make them proud in return for all the sacrifices they’d made for me, but they NEVER pressured me to be anything other than their Sarah Beth.

So, why?

Why valedictorian?  College?  Summa cum laude?  Miss Mountaineer?  Marriage? 9 to 5 job?  Children? Master’s Degree?  New career?  Leader?  Homeschooling mom? Stay-at-home mom?  Volunteer here and there and everywhere?

Why?

Is this how God wired me?  Or am I driven by something other than my Creator? {Divine intervention aside as I know He intervened more than once.}

At 38, I decided to sit down and ask…What in the world has driven my decisions for the past 20 years?

{Warning: Don’t ask God a question unless you are SURE you want the answer – HIS answer.}

I asked that question almost two weeks ago. I don’t have all the answers yet, but here’s what I do know….

Expectation can and will drive us when we don’t take time to pray through the next step, especially when we want to “fit in” or “look like everyone else.” And, I didn’t even realize I wanted this.

Yet, I followed the predictable path.

High school.  College.  Marriage.  Children.  {Career optional, but you still need the college degree.}  Raise children.  Go to church.  Serve in the church and community.

And, let me be VERY clear…

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this path.  NOTHING.

Sisters, these life situations we compare and allow to divide us almost always have NOTHING to do with right or wrong; we’re just different, fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator who delights in our uniqueness.  And, I am in this sweet spot with Jesus today because I am allowing Him to guide and direct my life onto a VERY different path – the path He made for me. He wastes nothing.

So, while I will never know which turns I took on the journey that weren’t of Him, what matters is that from this moment forward I seek Him and not what is expected or prescribed by the world.

He is enough.  Anything He adds to your life beyond Him is a gift.

And I don’t know the path now.  I’ve gone from season to season  – almost without thought.

Now… I wait.  Twenty years of living and striving and moving forward didn’t lead to an amazing public relations career or a perfect family. {What I thought I wanted.}

It lead to something better…

sweet times with two beautiful children who are simply fun to talk with…

authentic friendships that are teaching me what it means to be still and focused on Him alone…

a sad realization that I loved the church more than Jesus, so Jesus and I are building again…

a precious niece whom we will welcome to the world in the next few weeks…

and most of all…

A new quiet in my soul beginning to accept that He alone is enough.  That I never want to be trapped again by the world and its expectations.

2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 I say of the holy people who are in the land,  “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” 4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.   I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods  or take up their names on my lips. 5 Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.  With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand. Psalm 16

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