I was sure I’d failed.
On a spring day in 2016, I walked toward the small group of staff members lined up to wish me goodbye. It was eight months since I’d arrived at the Fold Girl’s Home and a few weeks after my 18th birthday. I’d blown in the previous autumn, hopeful that a structured environment and a circle of watchful caretakers would coax from out of a stream of choices which had gradually become more and more destructive.
Wrestling to the ground the emotional turmoil I felt at the thought of entering the Fold left me exhausted. At the same time, I determined to press through to the other side. The necessity of seeing my stay through to the end grew inside me, yet I hardly realized it then. I felt I had space only to face the future and pray that, finally, I’d found something that might rescue me from me.
Looking back, I realize that I assigned my personal value to completing my stay at the Fold. Completion would save me, heal me, and give me a reason to say I matter.
Eight months later, I’d had enough. I felt suffocated. I felt isolated. I missed my family. I didn’t want this kind of rescue. I told the staff and my parents, in no uncertain terms, that the Fold could not help me. I had given the entire process a chance and I’d had enough. It was time for me to leave, I urged.
Persistently, Fold staff gently reminded me of the dedication I’d made to healing. They softly prodded at my emotional belligerence, hoping that my resolve to stay would drown out the voices of anger shouting in my head. Lovingly and firmly, they invited me to reconsider.
I refused. This house on the top of a Vermont hill, these kind people with their long hugs and decisive prayers and wistful glances in my direction faded behind me as I drove down the hill with my sober-faced parents. My great journey toward finding freedom would not end on this Vermont hill. The peace that passes all understanding ( Phil. 4:7) would continue to call my name.
But shortened though it was, my stay at the Fold planted pieces of peace inside my heart.
For several years, I secretly bent my head in shame over not finishing the program. A series of hospitalizations, in-patient and out-patient programs, and family crises kept me uprooted. A series of new and improved poor choices brought me onto the turf of gruff caretakers who didn’t offer me long hugs or kind prayers. Regret plagued me.
And then something shifted. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I saw that I hadn’t lost everything because I’d stepped away too soon. I began to whisper to myself, “There, I knew I was loved. Maybe it did nothing else….but that chapter taught me I was loved.”
I took my first step toward seeing growth and success, not in the context of my expectations, but in light of eternity. I realized that my path toward healing might take unexpected turns. These surprises may look to everyone, including myself, like utter failures. But nothing is wasted.
Even the choices I regret making, the ones I label as failures, fall flawlessly into the plan Jesus has lovingly made for my life.
I am NOT the ultimate judge of success. He is. And His strategic, sweet thoughts for His world and my place in it are grander than I can imagine (Is. 55:9).
Did I stay at The Fold as long as I’d promised I would? No! But I did spend eight months within the reach of hands that spread open for me even in the face of my anger. I learned that even in my moments of messiness, true love didn’t turn away.
Do you know what this means? I learned that I could be loved. One single nugget so subtle that I missed it for years. One single lesson that shifted me firmly toward peace.
With eyes that are imperfect but clearer than before, I see what my Father knew all along. He knew I needed to know that I would need to see that success takes time, sometimes years. So He took me to The Fold to teach me. He knew I needed assurance that I could be loved. So He took me to the Fold to teach me. And He did. And I have not forgotten. This, dear ones, makes those eight months utterly, completely successful.
Do you have a part of your story that causes you to bow your head secretly in shame?
Do you worry that you won’t ever outrun the regrets that plague you?
Courage, dear heart.
He knows we will often fail at plans that we make for ourselves. But He always completes the plans He makes for us. In His own way, He is beautifying our faces and smoothing the rough edges of our hearts.
He will take us where we must go, for as long as we must go there. Our success does not lie in the amount of time we spend succeeding, but in the amount of time God spends in every place He leads us. And He is COMPLETELY present in each moment, no matter what the outcome. Nothing can separate us from Him, not even us ( Rom. 8:38-39). He will keep us near Him, with long hugs for our hearts and sweet prayers for our faltering hearts. He always hides a nugget for us.
By allowing Him to do what He must, for as long or as short as He must, we find that He never fails to bring us to His peace. So let’s keep an eye out for the pieces that lead us there.
This, dear ones, is eternal success.
Thank You for never leaving me.
I’m so grateful that Your patience and Your good, good plan for me do not change.
Please help me to trust Your perfect timing, even when I don’t understand. Remind me that I see my life incompletely, but You see it all. Help me to believe that You waste nothing
and that Your plan for me is grander than I can imagine. Please help me learn to take daily steps of faith as Your beloved child, seeing myself without shame, but with Your eyes of love.
I love you.
About the Author
Jay has been working with teens since he was in 7th grade and God radically got ahold of his heart. His background is in all forms of family and youth ministry, Bible and the like. He is the father of three amazing daughters and been married to his wife for 17+ years. He aspires to encourage the church to be “all that she can be” in Jesus by encouraging individuals to be firmly rooted in Christ, healthy families, and gospel sharing congregations.