by Malina (21)
Stagnant water. That’s the only way I could describe my life. Stagnant water. Stagnant water that sits there collecting debris, being poisoned by acid rain, trampled on by careless feet, and never moving. Never curving or winding or branching off. I was no river, but a little puddle of stagnant water content with the place I was and the filth that continued to compile.
It was a comfortable place to be—why move? Why take a leap of faith? Why pull back the curtains and take a peek into the outside world full of chaos and corruption? Why grow? What I didn’t know was that by staying behind the curtain, I wasn’t allowing myself to walk past – walk through – the battle and the destruction to find the beauty, the rays of hope, and the spring of life that awaited me on the other side. I was missing out on the opportunity to walk into something much better than the dull, stagnant life I was living.
I was joking around with a couple of student leaders at our youth ministry where I serve as an adult leader, when someone pulled out their phone to tweet and groaned at whatever was on her timeline. She went on to complain about, “that YOLO thing. Like, seriously? I just got drunk and hit a car – YOLO!” she went on to joke. I laughed because it was sort of lame, right? YOLO: You Only Live Once. Yeah, we only live once (that’s obvious) but when you actually look at the true meaning behind that phrase, it’s not that you only live once so make the most and best of it. It’s not, go out and serve, pursue that relationship with Christ, find your true identity in Him and live it to the fullest. In this message it’s: get drunk, get high, party, do what you want because you’re a loser if you miss out now. YOLO!
It made me stop and think. It made me think about how selfish that all sounded. Do things because I want to and I’ll be a loser in the eyes of my peers if I don’t. Forget about how you might break the hearts of your parents, or siblings, or family when you end up in the ER, passed out with alcohol poisoning. How lame would that sound waking up, looking my mother in the eye and saying, “YOLO.” It was all very selfish and immature and hardly a step forward.
The struggle – at least for me – was sort of like this. I had this YOLO mentality, but in a slightly different way. You Only Live Once, so embrace a lifestyle you have grown up hearing was a sin because it feels good to you. You Only Live Once and your life has already been so wrecked. Your life has already wounded you and broken you and torn you down so why try and change? Why try and grow a little and get to the green on the other side? And there it hit. Stagnant water.
Since coming to Living Hope, that sort of YOLO mentality was shattered. It wasn’t that I didn’t recognize it. It as just reeled into perspective so I could see it – really see it – identify it and get a rude awakening from God about it.
In my first year of just sitting in the ladies group, keeping a lot of myself hidden away from such open and great women, I observed and I listened. I was presented with stories from ladies who had been there two or three years and already they had changed. They had grown. I was told about how they were, or who they were, upon coming in and it blew me away to see the change. I would go home afterward, driving with no music on, and wondered how these ladies went from being stagnant puddles to flowing streams and getting the nutrients and sustenance to become bigger and better and spread like an ocean.
It took looking inside of myself and acknowledging that YOLO in me was one big huge lie. It was a buffer and it was a wall. It was an excuse to drown in my pain and let it eat at me and dry me up. It was an excuse for all of these things I would say to myself like, “You’re messed up already. You can’t change,” or “This is who you are and will always be. You can’t grow”.
It was sitting with D’Ann one counseling session for this to finally strike the right chord and trigger my journey into maturity. She would always tell me things I should do, and I would just wave and say, “Yeah I should. I really should. Okay, I should. I know I should.” That was me. Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda Malina and it was setting me back. But I will never forget that moment she told me, “If you would’ve started on some of this, I have no doubt you probably could’ve already been out of here…I don’t want to see you in here five, ten, twenty years from now, still in the same place.”
That floored me. It pierced me. It stirred up that stagnant spirit in me and started to carve out a hollow so my waters could begin to seep and flow out. It got me to ditch my ‘shoulds’ and start on my ‘wills’ and from that…there have been leaps in my growth and my maturity—not only spiritually, but mentally and relationally as well.
By getting serious with speaking to God and diving into his word a little here and there, he started to pull at my heart and draw so near to me there’s no way I can’t feel him when I hear a good song come up on my ipod Jesus Mix playlist in the car. I can hear him, feel him, speaking to me and guiding me so much clearer. I feel the wall that I had placed up between me and God for so, so long had been shattered and all I have to do is open my mouth and speak and I know he can hear me.
By this growth in relationship with the Lord, it filtered into my character and who I was as a person. It shifted my perspective away from me, away from YOLO and it’s all about me, and what I want, when I want, and my selfish desires. Now I have a tenderness towards others. It shattered my perception that the world was out to get me: that I can’t be who I am or face judgment from others, but instead to come into my own, embrace who I am in Christ and share that with other people.
Since the time when I first came to Living Hope, I go back into my old journals and say to myself, “that was me?” I was so closed off to people, to the world, and to God. I was always medicating with the things of this world, with the girls who I ended up dating, instead of finding my safety in God. Since Living Hope, it has sparked a burning desire in me to move, to jump in the river and get saturated. It has pushed me out of the little girl, pouting in the corner with my arms folded because I didn’t get what I wanted. God gave me something so much better and I rejoice!
However, does this river ever hit a dam? Absolutely. There are times that I become that little puddle again and throw a fit and revert back to that YOLO, but the wrecking ball of Christ always comes in, making the tiniest crack in the cement and there I go flowing again. In that, I know I’ll reach my ocean. And oh how glorious the waters will be.