Reflite: verb. “to write down one’s reflections”
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of action, from dance performances to birthday parties to senior prom. I come back from each of these events completely overwhelmed with the friends God has given me. Senior year has been an incredible blessing — a wonderful conclusion to the challenging years of high school. I am content.
Although I embrace the contentedness I feel now, I think back to a time when I felt very alone. Very awkward. Very discontent. The fact that God redeemed those difficult moments makes me want to praise Him all the more. His work in my life and through my social interactions is proof that God does not leave us in the rough times. Life is not easy. Humans will fail us. God is always with us. I know that there will be moments in the future where I feel lonely and discontent. In those moments, I want to remember God’s blessings in the past. In the dark and ugly circumstances, I want to hold tight to the truth that God transforms brokenness into beauty.
As I reflect on the joy of senior year, I want to share a college essay I wrote earlier in the fall. The prompt read, “Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?” Here is my response…
I never fit in. Each Wednesday, I would walk into a large room of a hundred teens and feel completely lost. Surrounding me were little circles of people, talking about their day, the dance coming up, or who’s dating whom. Instead of seeing fellow teenagers, all I saw were cliques. As someone who had grown up going to this church, I didn’t get it. How could I have gone from the kid who knew everybody to the awkward teen who doesn’t know who to talk to? I was lonely, confused, and discontent.
I loved politics – most teenagers could care less about who was running for office. I could talk on and on about social issues I wanted to change – most teenagers were consumed with their own circle of friends. I had big dreams, things I wanted to accomplish – most teenagers didn’t look past Friday night. I felt like I had nothing in common with everyone else at youth group. Eventually, I withdrew. I could never find anyone who understood… or at least that’s what I thought.
My feelings of discontentment transformed the summer before my senior year. Taking a leap of faith, I chose to spend a week in Costa Rica with nineteen of those same youth I felt didn’t understand me. During those days, my perspective was changed. I realized that most of the problem was me. I was so focused on finding someone just like me that I failed to see how special differences could be and how those differences could bring us together. We were all remarkably different. Some of us went to public school, others private school, and others were home schooled. Some played sports, others loved to write, and still others were talented musicians. Yet during that week, we looked past our differences and worked together. As we carried buckets of sand and mixed concrete by hand, we were yoked together by a common purpose. And slowly, as I began to see the hearts of my fellow youth, I began to develop an inexplicable connection with my youth group again.
Now, I look forward to Wednesdays. I can’t wait until that middle of the week pick-me-up. I walk into that large room of a hundred teens and feel completely content. There are still the circles of people, but now I feel confident walking over to a circle, knowing I can find something in common with them. We talk about our day at school, the latest TV show, and our plans for college. Some play dodge ball in the auditorium; others lounge on the café couches and talk. When we’re all called into the assembly room, together we worship the Creator who made each one of us unique.
After youth group, the seniors gather together to work on a dance collaboration for the student talent show. As we goof off and try to turn a group of mismatched seventeen year olds into a cohesive dancing machine, the community I have been blessed with overwhelms me. There’s a talented gymnast who is passionate about Constitutional Rights. There’s an artist who dreams about combining music with missions. There’s a cross-country runner who can break it down on the dance floor. And then there’s me, the once discontent homeschooler, who can talk for days about politics and who feels like she’s falling in love with a whole group of people at once.
Insecurities still creep back, but I am content with being an individual and not worrying about fitting a certain mold, because our differences bring us together. I’ve let go of the confines I created for my friendships. And as I’ve let go of those mental barriers, I have found fellow passionate teenagers who have big dreams. When I allowed my eyes to be opened to the hearts of my fellow teens, I found contentment in a way I never imagined.