Birthdays tend to bring about reflection on the past. It was around this time, twenty years ago, that I started down a wayward path. I had just turned fourteen and was about to start high school when I first learned that my parents were getting a divorce. I took it hard. I withdrew from my childhood friends, started to act out, and stopped caring about school. Ultimately, I failed the first half of ninth grade and dropped out completely during the second semester. I did not have any ambition to work, socialize, or even live.
My father made a wise decision. Since I was not pursuing my education and he wanted to keep a close eye on me, he required me to work with him installing appliances for Sears. For the next six months, we would drop my siblings off at school and then put in a full day of labor-intensive work. It would be easy to look back at this period of my life and regret everything, but I don’t. I am actually very thankful for it.
During those months, I gained some important character traits. I learned to listen to others. Our customers loved to talk to the little blonde girl who was working with her dad. I heard about their families, dreams, worries, and ailments. While I am still innately shy in a crowd, these conversations have equipped me for listening to others in a one-on-one setting. I also developed construction skills and a work ethic. I have been able to utilize these during various volunteer opportunities and work projects. Lastly, I obtained a drive to learn. This drive carried me through the next three years of high school. By taking correspondence courses through the University of Alabama and loading up on core requirements, I was able to walk with my original graduating class. It also carried me through college, where I obtained an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree, and eventually a master’s degree.
As I look back over that last twenty years, I realize that my failures were not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we need to stumble in order to gain character. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 5:3-5:
3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (ESV)
As I said before, I am thankful for my experience as a high school dropout. This is just one of many areas where God has shown me grace and mercy. Maybe I should write a book about all of it someday... (wink, wink). I pray this post brings you strength for today, hope for tomorrow, and the knowledge that God’s love has been poured into our hearts! Here is to another year of life!