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Pastor's Corner: A future and hope

 


The month of May is marked by two important events — graduation season and mental health awareness month. On the occasion of both, I want to talk about resiliency: “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change,” as defined by Merriam-Webster. As we learn to bounce back from painful situations, we find the power of resilience. Part of being human means that we will all experience misfortune and change, but how we respond to those events determines our joy.

One of the most famous inspirational quotes said to encourage newbie graduates is Jeremiah 29:11 — “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

But have you stopped to wonder about the context of this passage?

The Jewish people were God’s chosen ones and it would seem like the best years of their lives were ahead. They had the promise of God’s protection after all! But the Israelites made mistakes and chose to disobey God. As a result, they were sent by God into exile far away from their homes — a season marked by loneliness and darkness. They were falsely told that “all will be well” but that man did not tell the truth. In the same way, we prophesy the same thing — we too often try to skip over the hurt and pain to the fantasy of the Christian life that is all about happiness. We want joy, but we don’t want exile to create it. We want to be strong in Jesus, but we don’t want to walk the Calvary Road He walked. We want holiness without pain.

So, the context of Jeremiah 29 is exile. The Prophet Jeremiah rebukes the false prophecy and reminds the Israelites that their exile was to continue. Relief would eventually come, but not quickly. He encouraged them to make the most of, and to seek prosperity, in their current situation.

Throughout my life, I have learned resiliency through my own seasons of exile. God doesn’t call us to escape or avoid our problems, but to find resilience in the midst of our trials. Our suffering here means something — it helps us long for a better place. Yes, of course, God knows the plans He has for us. And ultimately, God will walk with us. When we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy. So if I could go back and give myself advice on the occasion of my high school graduation, here is what I wish I had known:

Be yourself. You are stronger than you know. You are beautiful and brave. Embrace your uniqueness and diversity, instead of trying to hide it and fit in. You are lovable and you are loved. You are enough. It’s not your fault. You are rocking it! Tough times are normal — if it gets to be too much, seek help and counsel. Trust God. Get an excellent therapist and keep going to therapy. Asking for help does not make you weak. Self-care is not selfish. Believe in yourself! Your inner voice is important and you should listen! Love yourself exactly as you are — and not as you want to be. Let yourself be free of judgment and worry. Always trust your gut. Always stand up for yourself. Always act on those two and life will go better than if you don’t. Your weight is the least important thing about you. You will grow up to be your own kind of beautiful! Don’t hang your life up to be someone’s special — be your own special!

If you would not accept someone talking to your friend “like that,” you shouldn’t be settling for it yourself! Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. It takes up too much space in your brain. Stop taking everything so personally. Look beyond. Focus on friendship — those people will get you through. You won’t always feel so lonely. You will eventually find your people. Be willing to own up to your mistakes but don’t apologize for things that are not your fault. Know your worth. Learn to set healthy boundaries. Trust red flags. You are far more capable than what anyone says. Be honest with your friends — they will still love you.

Anyone who says these are the best years of your life is a fool — they are not. It gets better … so much better than you ever could have hoped or dreamed! This too shall pass — and you will probably laugh about it later. Be curious — about people, learning, and life. Academic success is not a predictor of professional success. You really are going to be just fine. Grades aren’t everything. Pursue what brings you life. Live boldy! Don’t be afraid to take chances.

Follow your heart and do what’s right for you — don’t let others define who and what you can be. There is a whole big world beyond the little world of high school. Do your best when it is needed, but remember that perfection is impossible. Don’t wait until you think you are perfectly ready to tackle a challenge you want to try. “Somewhat ready” and “mostly ready” and “not ready at all” but really want to do it counts too! It’s okay to fail. Brace yourself. You have no idea what’s coming your way. Stay focused. Stay grounded. Stay grateful. And remember to keep breathing and enjoy the little moments. Relax!

And above all else, remember Jesus’ promise: “I am with you always, until the end of the age”.

——

The Rev. Maggie Lewis

First Presbyterian Church, Havre

Chinook Presbyterian Church

 

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