“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1: 4-6 (NIV)
I find myself looking back in my life a lot more since hitting fifty. I am over that hill they talk about and the view from the other side ain’t so bad. An urgency to get things done, to pursue dreams, and to not waste time has set in and I am more brave than ever.
But the experiences of my life (and yours) are profoundly important, not because I succeeded in every endeavor or test, but more because God uses them to mold me and help others.
My adventure this summer (besides welcoming my first grandchild) was to accompany the youth group to Mexico as an adult helper – an interpreter and “mom” figure. The youth pastor told us all that we were to say “yes” to whatever ministry work we were asked to do, and so, when I was approached to preach a thirty-minute sermon in Spanish the next day (no preparation time allotted), I answered, “Sure!”
I rode back to the hotel in the van full of chatting and laughing students, scared silent and staring out of the window with a mind full of “Oh Lord, Help!” thoughts. We were driving through narrow streets with brightly painted adobe walls on either side that were used as the Mexican version of billboards. One advertisement I passed said (translated from Spanish) “More than 35 years of experience!”
My conversion to Christianity, accepting Jesus as Lord in my heart and life, happened 35 and a half years ago! Needless to say, I was greatly encouraged to hear from the Lord that my experience of knowing Him was the requirement, not experience in preaching. I rocked that sermon, by the way!
Some of my past I would like to excise from my history, but long ago the Lord reminded me that He could (and would) transform each part and work it into the whole of my life experience. Healing from wounds has come in the form of time, counseling, encounters with the Holy Spirit, and the love of friends. I didn’t transform all my life events into something good by my own efforts, though I was a willing partner in the process.
All of our experience is required, not just for our personal growth into God’s design for our life, but for the sake of others. Amazingly, as a middle-aged (or “over the hill”) youth helper in Mexico, I was very relatable. One girl said, “It’s like you’re a teenager!” and I replied, “My 18-year-old is still inside me!”
So is the stuttering elementary school girl, the nervous college freshmen, the new bride, and the first time mom. All the pain, the failure, the victory, and the surrender to God mix together into a life that God uses. When we are in the midst of the pain of a life experience let’s hold onto this hope.