In a few days I’ll be twenty. It’s kind of hard to wrap my mind around that realization. Or, rather, my mind gets it—my heart doesn’t. I think I should feel something deep, something profound. I want to summarize the first two decades of my life in shining words and succinct sentences with a tidy list of lessons learned.
And I do feel—I feel the weight of it. At least, I feel the weight of it hovering right above me, like that ominous taste in the air right before a storm. The storm of emotions at turning twenty will come, I’m sure. Right now, the wind is picking up and I am standing, hair whipping about, turning my head to look behind me at the skies of my teen years and then back at the clouds of adulthood gathering in the distance.
(Clouds bring rain and rain brings growth, I know.)
Like I said, the storm of emotion hasn’t fully hit yet. But I do feel, as I look back on this hilly landscape of teenhood, a tinge of regret.
Mostly what comes to mind is, I didn’t write a book.
I never wrote it down in official ink somewhere, I’m going to publish a book as a teenager, but I guess I just assumed I would do it, or something like it. Not even assumed—maybe it was too dear a dream, too fragile to handle or bring into the full sunlight. Not that it was a purely innocent dream—there was pride all wrapped up in it. Pride that of course I would be one of those exceptional teens, one of the extra-ordinary ones. Waste your teen years? Surely not I!
I was swept up in the Do Hard Things movement. Which, don’t get me wrong, I respect and applaud. One of the things I love about it is that it emphasizes the small hard things—how it’s just as godly and beautiful and valuable to be faithful in the mundane tasks of life as it is in the grand ones.
But of course I wanted to do the grand thing, the unusual thing. I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong—dreaming is not inherently bad. It’s a good thing. The idealism of youth, that’s our strength. We shouldn’t bury it or scoff it or ignore it. I hope I keep on dreaming, teen or twenty or beyond.
I thought, I really thought, I could publish a book as a teen. Or at least, I’d get pretty close to it. I could write articles for magazines, get my name out there. I did start a blog. I win a contest or two—although I lost a few more and I didn’t enter nearly as many as I could have. There were online sites I knew I could submit writing to and probably be accepted at. TheRebelution, the Do Hard Things site, was one.
Obviously, there was the arm pain holding me back. Mostly there was just—life, I guess. Little choices not to enter that contest or to work on poetry instead of a book idea or to scroll through pinterest instead of researching book proposals. Little choices that wore away the years until here I am, at almost-twenty, with no book. There are other reasons, too, spiritual things I was working through that held me back from submitting articles to those sites that might have published my work.
Here’s the bigger issue: it’s not that I didn’t just publish a book. Right now, I don’t even know what kind of book I want to write. Like, non-fiction or fiction? Something as basic as that, and I don’t know it. This is so not me. I’m the kind of person who wants to have a clear goal to aim for. If I have a clear plan, nine times out of ten, I’ll execute it. I’ll get to where I want to go. I’m good at just, you know, getting the stuff done. But what if I don’t know what needs to be done? Art can be so hard for a type-A person for that reason.
I know, some people just start writing without any idea of what they’re writing (although even they know whether it’s going to be nonfiction or fiction). I could do that, I guess. It’s not at all my nature but I could try. But before I just dive in and start forcing out a book, I want to still and listen.
God could have said, Write. Go out there and leap into the dark, into the utter unknown, and write. Trust that I will show up and guide you and give you the story. He’s probably said that to others. And maybe he’ll say it to me someday.
But right now, all I hear is a still, small voice saying, wait. Wait. It will come, it will come. This thing deep in you, this thing you can’t feel the edges of yet, it is growing, ever so slowly. Don’t rush it. Let it steep. Lean into the mystery. Wait.
So here I write, to a couple hundred wonderful followers (although I realize of course that only a small fraction actually read this stuff). I know numbers aren’t what really matter. But—this is a far cry from publishing a book. I trace my eyes back over the winding path from when I first picked up Do Hard Things at age thirteen and thought I could and would do anything and was sure my teen years would shine, and then through the twists, turns, tree-clogged tops, crumbling gravel ditches of the intervening years…to here, the last few days. Bookless. Is it my fault?
If I had made different choices, better ones, maybe that book would be here. Or it would be a lot closer, at least. But I can’t change those choices, and I’m seeing how my God is weaving all of them into something beautiful. Nobody is ever told what might have happened, Aslan tells Lucy. But God is big enough for—well, for everything. He is big enough to turn the Fall into a chance to show his glorious redemption. He is big enough to turn my mistakes into a journey deeper into his heart—and closer to fulfilling my desires. Even if it looks like I’m taking the slow path.
No regrets. The clouds haven’t hit yet but before they do, I am resolved: no deluge of regrets will push me off my feet. I will stand and let them slide down because my roots are deep, cradled in the hands that made the world, the skies above and the earth beneath. I do not say this to ignore or bury my mistakes. I say it because I believe He was buried and I was buried with Him—and more than that, He rose again and so I did too and He is making all things new.
I did not publish a book as a teen and that is okay. Not because it is not my fault (I will never know for sure whether it is) but because God has a plan and it is a good one and nothing I do can thwart it. Right now, it is His will that I wait, not write.
Maybe I can summarize a little of what I’ve learned so far in life: I am learning to throw myself into the wave. I am learning that even when I do not see it—especially when I do not see it—God is moving. Even when I am not moving—even when I am moving in the wrong direction—He is carrying me forward in grace, grace upon grace.
So let the rain come pouring down. I can’t wait to see what grows.