I'm still working through this thing called getting older. I know, nowadays sixty is still considered relatively young, especially when you have so many living well into their eighties and nineties. Still, the realization that I'm here at this juncture has me reflecting a bit more than usual on what I've done thus far and what it is exactly that I'd still like to accomplish during this latest chapter of my life. I think it's easier to explain where I want to go if I reflect on where I've come from. So what better place to start than near the beginning.
|Kindergarten--I'm standing, second from right|
I'll never forget Mrs. Slocum's kindergarten class or how shy I was, too afraid to ask questions or speak what was on my mind. I recall the crush I had on the cutest boy there, but because some little red-headed, freckle-faced girl boldly announced to everyone that she liked the same boy, he agreed that he would indeed be her boyfriend. I still remember wishing that I'd had the same kind of courage that she did. If so, perhaps he would have been my boyfriend instead of hers. Actually, probably not. But that little episode in my five-year-old life reminds me that I don't want to live in fear of what others might think. I want to speak and live out my life with courage and confidence.
Secondly, I don't want to get too comfortable in my little corner of the world. Our kindergarten classroom sat next door to Miss Smith's first-grade class. I still have these few seconds of recall where I'm passing those first-graders in the hallway and feeling a sense of awe at their size, their maturity. I couldn't wait to get there. As a five-year-old, I only saw what was close to me and anticipated only that which was directly ahead. My world was pretty small back then and consisted of my family, a few neighborhood friends, my church and Mrs. Slocum's kindergarten class. As I became older, it got bigger of course. Going to college a thousand miles from home, pastoring churches around the country, learning to speak Spanish and living in a third-world country, these challenging, and yet wonderful experiences grew me and enlarged my world. I'll be honest, there's still a little part of me that wants to sit back and surround myself with things that are familiar, comfortable. But how easy it would be to become complacent, just coasting along for the rest of my life and missing those wonderful adventures that God still has planned for me.
|The school bus dropping me off with my brother Rex|
Third, I don't want to be afraid of the "what ifs." One day not too long after I started school, I was sitting in the back seat of the bus heading home when I suddenly realized that the bus was completely empty except for me and the driver. I ran down the aisle and tearfully told him that I had forgotten to get off with the others. He scolded me, told me to pay better attention and opening the door, let me off. Fortunately he hadn't gone very far, but for weeks afterwards I was overwhelmed by the fear that I would forget to get off that bus. Even when I wasn't on the bus, I thought about what might happen if I should forget again. I think back to how much time I wasted anticipating and fearing something that never happened. I'm a grownup now, but I know how easy it is to fall into the worry trap, expecting the sky to fall at any moment. I don't want to live there.
Fourth, I don't want the fear of failure to keep me from taking risks. When I turned sixteen, I was afraid every time I got behind the wheel of a car and froze when it was time to take my driving test. I failed of course. A year or so later I tried again. And failed again. I would take the test four times before I could finally stop renewing my permit and get a license. When we moved to Honduras, I had to learn to drive stick on a Toyota double-cab truck if I wanted to get anywhere. The narrow roads, the absence of traffic lights, the myriad of buses and cabs and horse-drawn carts and bicycles weaving in and out of traffic absolutely terrified me. But Larry was patient, taking me out on Sunday afternoons, allowing me to practice shifting when the traffic wasn't so heavy. Finally the day came when he had to leave for a two-week trip to Jamaica, and suddenly it was up to me to get our kids to school across town everyday. I did it, and soon I was weaving in and out of traffic along with the rest of them. Those past challenges remind me that I don't want to come to the end of my life filled with regret because of the things I wanted to do but didn't because I was too afraid to go after them.
|Angela, Fawn and Joel in the back of the Toyota|
Finally, I don't want to stop dreaming. I want to believe that God still has great things in mind for me, but I won't discover what those things are if I don't keep moving forward. To do that I have to take to heart the other goals I've set for myself: to live my life courageously and with confidence, to get out of my comfort zone, to quit worrying about the "what ifs" and take some risks. Those things don't come natural for me as I am by nature a bit of a coward. But with God's help, I can do and be all that He has placed within me. After all, I left kindergarten a long time ago.