Does your life make a difference? Is the world a better place because you are in it? Most of us want to answer ‘yes’ and know we have a purpose. But some seasons of our life don’t feel very productive or valuable. Other times we become ultra-accomplishment focused and lose sight of the simplicity of caring and kindness.
I grew up in a very conservative Mennonite family. I refer to those days as “cap and gown” since I wore a head covering and a cape dress. All the time. I could ride a bicycle in a long, flowy dress. I could climb ladders and fences in a dress. My parents were horse and buggy Amish. My first language was a dialect of high German often known as Pennsylvania Dutch. It was an idyllic childhood that was filled with family and community and laughter. As I came into pre-teen years, there were a lot of rules, and I began to thrive as a human doing. But my heart hungered for freedom. I wanted to experience God, not just know about Him. It was a deep desire to know that His love is relational, not conditional on my keeping of the rules.
The past few months I’ve had amazing opportunities to sit across from women who share the stories of their lives. Lives that are way off my grid. One was a pagan witch, another a turban-wrapped mother with her one-year-old turban-wrapped child who was in a very controlling relationship. I also met with a fully-burka-clad Muslim who was lovely and kind and a 19-year-old who was being influenced by many of her friends to think that smoking marijuana during pregnancy would make babies smarter.
Where they come from and where I’ve come from is quite different! I’ve not experienced the horrors of many of their lives, and I don’t claim to have easy answers. I do know that each one needs to know they have value because they are human beings, not human doings. I tell them that.
I also know that they, like me, have been created with a God-shaped hole inside of them that we as humans attempt to fill with lots of things. Many try to earn God’s pleasure with religious ‘doings’, not realizing He’s done it all for us. There’s no true peace without that ‘hole’ in us being filled by a God who knows us. A God who lovingly gives us everything we need for fulfillment.
I never expected to be at this place at this moment. A little Mennonite girl with no confidence and a fear of talking to people. What seems like an unlikely pairing of women is, in reality, a divine connection. There have been many seasons where I felt like not much was happening. I had to take risks and trust Him to do the impossible. Some days I still feel like a drop of water in a sea of impossible human situations. But I trust that Almighty God can use that one drop to create a ripple, and that small ripple can affect my world for good. Only then, can I truly make a difference and make my world a better place.
Because of God and His kindness, and the encouragement of people He strategically set in my path, I have come to know I have value and significance not by what I can DO, but by Who I belong to. And because I live for a God who values relationships, I do my best to bring that offer to those He brings into my world.
Copyright © 2017 Nadine Patton.
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