I've had road trips on my mind recently. Maybe it's because of the one my friends and I took last weekend, or my friend Lauren describing in joyful detail the childhood road trips she would take with her grandmother, or the fact that it's summer and I'm itching for vacation. Regardless of the reason, it's made me think back to our family road trips growing up. Most of them involved long stretches of Texas highway in some direction or another. Truthfully though, what I remember the most is the sky.
You see, somehow in my family, there was an unspoken understanding that I owned the third row bench seat--and always had it to myself. I would immediately throw my pillow and a blanket over the seat, dive over the second row, and proceed to get into my road tripping position: laying down, pillow pushed up against the cup holder, staring at the sky. I spent hours of those trips alternating between long naps and daydreaming.
My childhood daydreams, from my earliest memory, were of adulthood. I wanted to be a grown up from age 5. And these long trips provided ample time to imagine how exciting life would (finally) be when I grew up. I'd be popular, confident, wealthy, unencumbered by insecurity or loneliness or responsibilities like homework. My then-present self was merely a shadow of who I'd be as an adult. As much as I couldn't wait for my "real" life to come to fruition, I loved the opportunity to dream about it, to separate myself from my current, drab reality and be transported to the happier, prettier, more fun version of my life that was waiting past age 18. My perfect life was just beyond the imperfection of childhood.
But then 18 came, and with it college, where my hope deferred itself to a post-graduate version of myself. Sure, I was still awkward and insecure in college, but AFTER I crossed that stage and entered the real world-- that's where I'd really shine. Where I'd do the big, important, influential things I'd always imagined. If I waited-- I'd be rewarded with the picture-perfect life I wanted.
And then, real life. A life that hit me in the face not with the warm glow of happiness I'd always envisioned, but with discouragement and fear and failure like I'd never known. I found myself again using what had become my crutch-- my daydreams-- to convince myself that the perfection I chased in my dreams was still ahead. If I just waited a little longer, my future would provide the adulthood I'd dreamt of for so long-- waiting on my dreams was the key.
If you have read anything I've written in the past two years, you might find it curious that I haven't mentioned God, or faith, up until now. And that's because, in all the dreaming and scheming and deferring I did for all those years, it was wholly separate from anything related to God. I was guarding my personal Dreamhouse far from God, because I was afraid of what he might do with it. In truth, I saw God as some sort of vindictive, sadistic sibling who might come in and knock down my Dreamhouse, for no other reason than it seemed like fun. If God saw my Dreamhouse, He might laugh or mock me. Or, even worse-- He might tell me I was unworthy of it. And I didn't need to hear that, because I'd pretty much become an expert at telling myself that for 20-something years. I was having to wait, because I hadn't gotten it all together yet. When I finally found all the pieces, I'd be able to puzzle together the life I'd always wanted.
So while I put off much of my own life in waiting for a future life-- I also put off God, in fear that our plans weren't aligned. God, I'll serve you and take risks for you and be radical for you-- but later, once I have all my plans squared away. Once I know that my life is how I want it to be, once my dreams are fulfilled, they'll be much more room for you. Essentially I've said over, and over, and over, I've waited for my Dreamhouse, so You can wait on me too.
I've deferred a lot of action for a later time in life. I have stayed in low-risk mode thinking that the future was where risk belonged. I've put off taking risks--even things like, writing and publishing a blog post--, because I thought I needed to have my life a little more together, needed to look a certain way, have a certain life in order to have credibility. And you know what? Maybe I did need a certain life-- but the life I needed was and is not the life of my Dreamhouse, but rather, a life of surrender. Surrender to a God who knows my imperfections, insecurities, and flaws better than the recording that runs through my head every time I approach the idea of risk. Surrender the one "who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine", whose plans make my dreamhouse look like squalor in comparison.
This past year has been one of the most joyful I have ever experienced-- and it wasn't because my dreams finally became a reality. I'm no closer to being married, or wealthy, or successful, or any of the other characteristics that detailed my daydreams for so long, than I was last year. But I will tell you what has changed: my surrender to, and subsequent trust in, God's plan over my own. Everyday is a battle, and my family and close friends will tell you I have had plenty of tearful nights in fighting against my own worldly desires over a life God has for me. But I promise you that in every instance, as sometimes rare as they might be, that I have surrendered the plans for my Dreamhouse over to God, He has returned to me ten-fold in joy and peace and courage that I never could have drafted up on my own.
I did not think my twenties would look like they have-- and I certainly never imagined being where I am, right this moment. I look around my room, and nothing seems a part of those original Dreamhouse plans: a one-bedroom apartment (I never wanted to live alone--ever), clothes hanging in my closet sized much larger than Barbie's, hand-me-down furniture from my (very sweet!) parents. None of it a part of the plan. But when I take a second look, I see examples of places where God has shown me much greater love than I ever was willing to show myself: a wall filled with brightly-colored art that I never would have had the courage to create even 3-4 years ago; a photo of my precious family, who has seen me at my worst, and loved me equally as at my best; and a hastily-lettered phrase that was preached at my sister's wedding last summer: live loved.
Live loved. I think that is part of what God has taught me to do in this surrender. To live a life where I know how deeply, inexpressibly loved I am-- whether or not I have a husband, a fancy house, a high-powered job, or a single-digit clothing size. And that life looks like stepping away from the Dreamhouse plans, and recognizing that what God has to offer is a whole lot more wonderful than anything those daydreamed blueprints could craft up for me, in this moment. And as I step into what He has for me now, rather than pining away for what might be in the future, I'm learning to see that what God has for me right now is now always easy, and it's not always what I imagined-- but He is better than I could ever imagine, and He's calling me to a life that's riskier and scarier and better than what I could dream up.