Everyone longs to have a perfect story. You know, the one that begins with “Once upon a time” and ends with “happily ever after.” But those stories are aptly called “fairy tales,” and they are not the stories of our lives. Our stories are stories of real people wrestling through the joys and struggles of real life. And what we DO with our struggles and our stories makes all the difference in the world.
Let me be the first to say, there are no perfect white picket fences in my story either. In fact, the story of my life has included loss, disappointment, and pain, which at some point is a part of everyone’s story. But what I have learned along the way is that even our pain can be a part of our purpose. Here’s the key:
Our circumstances do not have to define us, but how we respond to our circumstances determines the level of success we will experience in life.
I will never forget the defining moment in my life when God showed me how the pain of my past could become the purpose and the passion of my heart. I was 14 years old and singing at a Christian camp for the summer. During one of the meetings, the director of the camp spontaneously asked me to remain on stage after singing and share my story. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, it was a huge deal to me. I had never shared my story and certainly didn’t want to start in front of several hundred of my peers. I didn’t want them to know that I didn’t have a perfect life.
I froze and didn’t know what to do, but finally decided to try to gracefully trudge through it and hope for the best as I took a deep breath and started in.
Much to my horror, talking about my childhood was messy, and exactly what I feared would happen did happen. When I got to the part about my mom dying of cancer, I completely fell apart. Now, I’m not talking about the graceful tear rolling down my cheek as I eloquently shared from the depths of my soul. No, it was more like an avalanche of snot coming out of my nose as I choked out my words. I was absolutely mortified and wanted just to close my eyes and instantly vanish.
Somehow I pulled myself together and made my way back to my seat, wishing that moment would be forgotten, all the while knowing it was one of those undeniably awkward moments that would be permanently etched in everyone’s minds. Despite my complete mortification, God did something that week that changed me forever.
Throughout the week, about fifty of the teenagers came up to me at different times and wanted to talk. One girl shared that her mom and dad had just divorced and she was really struggling. A boy shared of his personal struggle with drugs and alcohol. Another girl showed me on her wrist where she had tried to take her life. On and on the stories went—stories of broken hearts and shattered dreams.
For the first time in my life, I realized that everything I had experienced happened for a reason. Nothing was by mistake or coincidence. All had prepared me for this very moment in time when I could relate to each of these precious teenagers. No I didn’t have any big, profound answers, but I could look them in the eyes and say, “Yes, I know what it is like to hurt, but I also know what it is like to have a God who is faithful and who has been with me every step of the way. And all I know is that the same God loves you too and will be faithful to you as well.”
By the end of the week, I knew without a doubt that God had literally changed my hopes and dreams. As much as I loved music, God had a different plan for me. He wanted to use the story of His faithfulness in my life to make a difference in the lives of others.
The Good, Bad & Ugly
I think so many times we want to offer God the good things we have—our talents, our abilities, and the things we like and are proud of, but God wants EVERYTHING. He wants the good, the bad, the ugly, the embarrassing, and then He wants to turn it around and make something beautiful out of it for His glory and His Kingdom. Isaiah 61:3 talks about beauty coming from our ashes. You might wonder, How could anything beautiful come from the ashes of past failures and heartaches in life? But I assure you that this is truly what God specializes in, for there is nothing in our lives that God can’t turn around and restore to bring the greatest glory to His name.
Here’s the thing that I am most excited to share with you:
When we cling to God’s power and choose to use EVERYTHING in our lives for His glory, that is when the healing begins in our own lives.
We begin to see opportunities before us instead of focusing on past failures and disappointments that are behind us. We recognize chances to use our experiences, good or bad, as a way to help others, and, in doing so, we may begin to invest our lives in making a difference for the Kingdom. Before long, the pain is quietly replaced with the excitement of knowing there is purpose for our pain and fulfillment in being used by God for His life-changing and eternal purposes.
Maybe your picket fence is no longer white and maybe it’s tattered and falling apart. My prayer is that maybe, just maybe, you will find the courage to pick up the pieces of your fence and begin to dream again. Yes, life is still hard and dreams aren’t always easily accomplished, but I promise you, if you lay it all on the line, God will come through and prove Himself faithful every time.
There are no mistakes with God. He will use everything, including our pain, for His purposes. He is the author of my story, a story that shows how He loved me, He chose me, He rescued me, He saved me, and now He is using me more than I could ever dream possible and taking me beyond my wildest dreams.
I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is only because of God’s work in my life and in my story that I am able to live out the dreams He has breathed into my heart. I have found the story of my life has become the passion of my heart—using what I have been through to show hurting people that there is hope in Jesus! That’s my story. That’s my dream. What’s yours?
*Today’s blog is taken from Chapter 1 of my book, Dare to Soar, which can be purchased at Pauladunnministries.com (available in print or ebook) and at Itunes, Barnes & Noble, & Amazon (ebook only).