I’m at that stage in my life where every day is a lesson in the previous day’s ignorance. It’s playing out in the theatre of early adulthood where, in front of the audience of my psyche, I morph from a blazingly confident, bright-eyed and optimistic know-it-all, into a reflective, conservative member of society. The scenes change rapidly and repeatedly from the bliss of youth, to signing mortgages, filing long-form tax returns, and contemplating the long-term logistics of becoming a parent. Not five years ago I was in Europe pouring my entire net worth into a pair of New Rock combat boots. Now, I’m flanked by responsibility to myself and to the people I’ve convinced to rely on this new hybrid—at times not much more than a child masquerading as an adult.
A few of months ago, I turned 25. The months leading up to my quarter-century milestone birthed a minor crisis, closely related to the ones that I create for myself when I’ve gone too long without drama. I looked in the mirror, and realized that there were certain clothes that I just couldn’t wear anymore with a straight face. Peering harder at my image, I realized that, for me, hair color is no longer a novelty, but an option made mandatory by the ever-increasing number of gray hairs invading my head. Later on, I picked a fight with my husband after he caught me sitting in the sink, obsessively scouring my face for wrinkles. I said the word Botox. He said the word lunatic.
I wish I could say that this particular neurotic episode ended after my husband, looking a bit like a deer caught in the headlights of estrogen, brought me flowers. But it grew in to a full-blown identity crisis in the weeks that followed. I found reasons to resent my career, cursed my music collection for being stagnant since O.K. Computer, and picked more stupid fights with various loved ones. Truthfully, I was fighting a much deeper battle against a formidable enemy… myself.
When my “who am I?” drama followed me to my office disguised as a petty workplace complaint, my boss, who knows me all too well, saw directly to the core of the matter. The things I had pursued so fiercely in the innocence of my youth had been one by one starting to materialize in front of me. Life had called my bluff…I was no longer single, I was rapidly achieving what I thought would be life-long goals… but more than anything, the people I looked up to were beginning to see me as a peer. So unsure of myself and old enough to realize it, I was wedged between retreating to a youth without consequence, and facing the bittersweet accountabilities that came with respect and maturity. But unbeknownst to me, somewhere in the past couple of years, I had already passed the point of no return.
He shared something that resembles the following: Building your life is a lot like building a boat. The larger the vessel you set out to build, the steadier and more constant your course will be. To build it right, it will take much effort, planning and resources in the beginning, but once realized, it’ll be steady through the greatest of storms, and can leave from port for months at a time.
With a large ship, it’s also much harder to change course at will. To keep things from flying off of the deck and upsetting your cargo, you have to plan ahead. You may have to wait until you’re in broader waters, taking time to slow your engines, plot your bearings, and coordinate a change of direction.
On the other hand, if you choose to remain in a smaller, more agile vessel, you will have the luxury of being able to turn on a whim. You can weave in and out of rivers and streams whenever the moment strikes. But you won’t be able to sail the deeper waters of the oceans, you might easily capsize in the wakes of others, and you may find yourself without refuge or safety in the slightest of storms. There are pros and cons, and yes, seasons for both, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what kind of vessel you will build with your life.
I left his office with a weight lifted. It was exactly what I needed to hear. In my life it was time for me to make some commitments to myself and to God.
Because I’m in that place where I don’t yet fully trust my instincts, because my maturities are still being honed, and because I’m old enough to be painfully aware of these shortcomings, I’m reluctant to surrender to the plan that God has for me. It was easier, when I was younger, to have faith in God for the little things when they were just little things. Now, I have to forge a deeper faith—one worthy of carrying me into the vast expanse of the course God’s charted for my life.
Building this vessel for the journey life doesn’t have to mean taking the course always traveled or sacrificing my personality. I plan on wearing my combat boots into my 60s. The point is, in order to do what God has called me to do in every area of my life, I need to have a unified vision within myself, believe in that vision by seeing myself how God sees me, and work consistently towards that plan.
There will be times when it’s suitable to lower a buoy and navigate the auspices of various ports in life, and I hope those times are often… but I will always return to my great ship, adding my new adventures to the great work that God will continue to do in me. I’m building this vessel with faithfulness, obedience, sacrifice and relationship, but it will be held together by the character He’s continuing to build in me.[Adrienne Saltee Gray is a producer for a global media company that focuses on Praise and Worship. She spends most of her time rendering
video or living out of a suitcase.]
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