So, this is a post that I've actually been putting off for a while. 6 months, to be exact. I kept moving it to the end of my mental list, because I was afraid of not doing it justice... but then I realized that 1) that's totally not a feasible argument, because it is not any work that I have done, but a work that has been done in me, and 2) I really, really need to have record of this. I need to have something to look back on, so I remember the "why." And that's what this started out as, anyways: a place for me to record my thoughts.
Well. First of all. I started out this school year with an attitude that was very different from years past. During the fall, I was taking 2 science classes (with labs), 1 math, and economics, and I was loving it. I wasn't loving the ritualistic late night study sesh thing I had going on, but I was renewed with a passion for learning and enlightenment that was very different for me. The science just fascinated me in a way that I can't explain without going off on a tangent (but if you're interested, start by doing some light research on SPONCH or cell life... blows my mind!). I had this new motivation for learning, and passion for life... and I wasn't sure why. It was just new, and very refreshing. This attitude of driven-ness caused me to take on many different activities outside of school, like 2 jobs, 2 additional work/volunteer positions outside of my paid jobs, pursuing my musical exposure and talent by continuing to study the piano, and serving in church, not to mention my commitment to my family. Now, all of this was definitely not something I would take on now; but God used a busy schedule for that semester to prepare me for this semester, next year, and the 3 years after that... He showed me what I was capable of when I trusted in Him. In spite of that overwhelming, completely full, non-stop schedule, I was still able to enjoy every minute of my life, to stop and think, 'this moment is unique, and I'm never going to get another one,' to "Be still and know that [He is] God" (Ps. 46:10). He gave me a real life example of it, and my life during that time was one of continuous prayer. And oh, how wonderful it was! It was hard, and it was messy, and God was so near. He showed me, through my study in Acts and through that season in my life, that He prepares us before revealing His plan.
During this entire time, I did have a goal. I wasn't completely sure if that goal was God-inspired, but it seemed to be, and I knew that all I could do was move forward and trust. So I did. During that short time from my summer vacation in August to right after Thanksgiving, I worked hard at all the things I just mentioned, and an application to the United States Military Academy at West Point. I honestly have no idea what I was thinking when I first started the process... it is so out of my comfort zone, first of all, and it's a huge commitment. I hate getting up early (most of the time,) and I hate working out. But because it's not something that I would have decided to do on my own, I thought that just maybe it was an opportunity from God, and that all I could do was apply. I knew I would learn a lot out of the application itself (I had to start training and take a fitness test), and that if I did get in, it would be totally and completely because of God. Additionally, I decided that I was going to apply in August, and started the application about two weeks before school started. Most applicants start it in March or April, which meant that I was starting the process late in the game. Not to mention the fact that most of the people who are applying have wanted this for their entire high school career, if not longer. So in spite of feeling out of place in this competition for a spot, I had peace with whatever came, because of the fact that I really wasn't in control of what happened. Everything I was putting in my application was things that I had already done, and couldn't change. I trusted in God to bring about His plan...
He also showed me ways that I could enjoy being there. It wasn't like I was being dragged through this application, kicking and screaming, saying "I don't want to!" No, I had so many ways that I could see it being a good fit for me. For example, I loved being affiliated with the Army. The community, the selflessness, the service to people... it fit with my values. But I also knew that even good morals aren't enough; without the truth of the gospel as a foundation, all else fails. I had seen the need for Christian influences in the military, and I saw that as a specific way that God could use me. I have always been fascinated with other cultures, and this brought about many opportunities to go overseas. I am also a very structured person, which is another way that this fit in so perfectly. Everything is planned out for you from day 1, and everything has a schedule, a specific way of doing things, and I thrive in that kind of environment. So all of these things were good encouragement, like, "See? I will provide for you. I will take care of you. I'm not doing it to make you miserable."
Well, He certainly did bring about His plan. In November, I got my acceptance letter, which was far earlier than I ever expected or hoped to hear back from them. I have never been so emotional or excited in my entire life. My dad was bragging on me, and I went back to think through all the reasons I gave myself for wanting to go there. I had all these reasons why it would be a good fit, how God could use it in shaping me into who He wants me to be, but it's like I had never allowed myself to dwell on them, because I had honestly not believed I would get in. Now, I had to start looking at it from a new light. I had to remember why I felt that God had led me here in the first place. One of the biggest things, though, was the overwhelming knowledge of the sovereignty of God through it all. Remember when I said that I wasn't in control of what happened? That everything I put in my application - the activities and accomplishments - were from the preceding years? That was just a small example of the fact that whatever you're going through now is preparing you for something bigger, and most of the time, you don't know what it is. I had made all of these commitments - all the things that helped me - before I decided to apply for West Point. It does help to have a goal to work towards, but ultimately, it comes down to doing everything to the glory of God.
All this, and everything that continues to happen, is teaching me about dependence on God. I have learned that I will not succeed unless I am totally reliant upon the Lord and His promises to me, that He does have a plan for my life. I had plans of my own before the West Point goal, but they weren't the plans that God had for me... yet He used everything that I did for myself in His own work that He did. How awesome is that! And now, I am working towards this goal, because I believe that it is from God. Even though it is initially out of my comfort zone, I have faith that he will use it, and I am reminded that it is not comfort which I seek, but to honor God. If this was of my own accord, it would undoubtedly exhaust me, but He has given me strength and energy and peace to run the race set before me, with joy that I am being made into the person that He wants me to be. John Piper says, "God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work not to be made much of, but to make much of him in every part of our lives." If God is not the highest in every part of our lives, we will lose the passion and drive that we have. I can only keep praying that He restores the vision I once had, and trust that He can indeed do more than I could even ask for.