When I first became connected to (in)courage, I caught glimpse’s of Sara’s story. I was moved by her resilience, inspired by her joy, and humbled by her courage. Although I never had the honor of meeting her in real life, her words and her story continue to speak to my hardest days. My good friend Mary Carver is the co-author of a beautiful book about Sara’s life called “Choose Joy,” and I invited her to share here today. Would you read & show her some love?
As I got ready for bed the other day, I pulled a black cami over my head and tossed it aside. After sliding into my comfy pajamas, I grabbed my discarded clothes and headed to the hamper. I noticed that my trusty black tank was showing its age, with a hem starting to unravel and straps beginning to tear apart.
The poor thing was worn out and as I looked at it, I thought, “Well, what do I expect? It’s trying to do a job it wasn’t made for!” And then I laughed because who else, other than a writer, would find a metaphor in the dirty laundry?
But even though a shirt is sometimes just a shirt, I couldn’t help but reflect on the parallel between my regular-sized camisole trying desperately to contain a plus-sized body and the seasons when I’ve found myself worn down and falling apart as I desperately try to fill a role I wasn’t made for.
Whether it’s been a job I took to pay the bills, a ministry I volunteered for because that’s what all the cool people were doing, or the “latest thing” I signed up for because I thought I should (like couponing, smoothies with vegetables, tweeting about those smoothies with vegetables or a whole host of things I’ve started and eventually stopped), I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do something I simply wasn’t made to do.
It’s not too different from my days in junior high, when I wanted nothing more than big bangs. (Well, that and a pair of jeans that didn’t come from Sears.) All my friends curled and teased and sprayed their bangs into submission, creating giant birds’ nests on the top of their heads – and I wanted to do it, too.
But my mom wouldn’t let me use hairspray. And my hair is thick and heavy. So big bangs – those glorious curled and fluffed wisps reaching for the sky – were out of the question for me.
I didn’t want them because they looked good, but because they were cool. Everyone else was doing it, so I thought it was the thing for me to do as well. But the sad truth is that my hair wasn’t made for big bangs.
Years later, my brother pointed out that we have identical, shorter-than-average foreheads – which means my entire FACE wasn’t made for bangs! But rather than figure out what I was and wasn’t made for – in fashion or in life – I’ve spent years crying and striving and twisting myself into emotional pretzels trying to understand why certain jobs, roles, experiences (or fashions) didn’t fit.
Throughout those seasons, I felt frustrated with myself, asking why I couldn’t just figure it out, why I couldn’t just do more, be better, get it right. It’s taken years of counseling and personality tests and research and prayer to realize, in most cases, those jobs or ministry roles or habits or even New Year’s resolutions didn’t fit because I was made for something else.
It doesn’t mean those things I was attempting – and failing – were bad or wrong. They were just made for someone else – and I was made for something else.
Sometimes we end up doing things we weren’t made to do because of circumstances out of our control, and sometimes we end up frustrated because we simply cannot do the things we want or need to do. (Or sometimes we end up stuck in those positions because of our own choices, even after we understand we were made for something else.)
My friend and co-author Sara Frankl wrote about how this was a struggle for her as she battled severe health problems – and how it eventually led her straight back to God and His true purpose for her life. As she battled such severe pain and exhaustion that she couldn’t even write a simple note to encourage a friend, she wrote:
I wonder about my purpose, what that might be if the things of my mind and heart can’t be produced by my hands or my lips. I wonder what I’m supposed to be doing if I can’t do anything. I’m seeking the answers in outside things – in activities and achievements – that I can no longer do or accomplish.
But then I think of the quote reminding me of the difference between giving up and letting go. And I realize that part of seeking out my purpose, what my goals should be, how to fulfill what God has put in front of me, is letting go.
Let go of the ideas that I can’t make happen. Let go of the expectations I put on myself to be more than myself. It’s a constant process as I lose more abilities, to adapt and adjust and let go of the notion that what I should be is anything other than what I am.
I shouldn’t be anything other than what I am! Wow. Yes, that’s exactly what I need to remember! Reading Sara’s words and getting to know her as a friend – and watching her exude faith and joy and humor despite a life cut short and filled with pain both emotional and physical – have changed how I approach understanding my purpose and evaluating my fit in a certain role or job.
Now, when something doesn’t fit, I don’t beat myself up wondering what’s wrong with me. Instead, I remember what I’ve learned from Sara and I let go of those things that don’t match up with my purpose. Like Sara, I let go of the idea that I should be anything other than what I am.
Is there anything you need to let go in order to find your purpose?
Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life, at www.givinguponperfect.com. Mary is the co-author of a new book called, Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. Released by the Hachette Book Group in 2016, CHOOSE JOY is a must-have for those searching for meaning and beauty in a world full of tragedy. Sara’s words breathe with vitality and life, and her stories will inspire smiles, tears, and the desire to choose joy. To learn more about CHOOSE JOY, visit TheChooseJoyBook.com.
UPDATE: You can order CHOOSE JOY as a paperback now!