A Shattered Dream Isn’t the End

A fairy princess? A queen? Those may be some of the typical titles that little girls aspire to, but that wasn’t me.

Believe it or not, my dream was to become a “physical therapist missionary in Africa”. That childhood aspiration pointed to my early interest in the field of rehabilitation, but also, my belief that I needed an exciting or even unusual life in order to be useful to God.

I felt a little adrenaline rush from stories like Daniel in the lion’s den and accounts of modern, brave missionaries meeting jungle tribes. “Wow”, I’d think, “God can only work through super-Christians like them.” My life, on the other hand, often felt too pleasant and ordinary to be of use to God.

It’s true that being willing to risk losing your own comforts, reputation, and safety for the sake of Jesus can be a precious gift that yields extraordinary returns. But what about the more or less mundane lives that many of us have? Can a mostly-ordinary life be of use to God too?

My plan to become a physical therapist missionary changed slightly over the years, but even through graduate school, I remained committed to the hope of one day joining a team of rehabilitation therapists. I intentionally made sacrifices for my educational goals, fully expecting my chosen priorities to result in a life well-spent. Despite my goal-oriented and focused quest, an unforeseen event caused my life to go in a wildly different direction.

Up till about five years ago, I had subconsciously visualized what a self-sacrificial and well-spent life dedicated to helping whomever God set in front of me would be like. I expected my years of sacrificing sleep for exam-prep to open doors to an exciting and useful life.

Then I got into a near-fatal car accident.

Instead of becoming a licensed provider, I was the recipient. And instead of caring for those in need of therapeutic intervention, I had to humbly receive it.

Now, having completed years of focused rehabilitation, my life is back to normal, even mundane, and is far from what I had anticipated. But I am encouraged by the many stories in the Bible of those whose lives took dramatic turns away from their plans, and were eventually used by God in ways beyond their imagination. For example, we usually marvel at the disciples’ experiences and their years of intimate interactions with the Savior, but even their lives weren’t always so interesting!

Peter, a disciple of Jesus who later became a pillar of the church, spent his early career as a simple fisherman. Although we’re not told about these quieter years in Peter’s life, surely they were still purposeful in preparing him for his great calling. Even the young woman Mary, who became the mother of Jesus, may have felt somewhat insignificant going about her day-to-day schedule, unaware of the great honor about to be given her. And going further back in Biblical history, the story of Abraham is recorded. While he would become the “Father of many nations”, there was a time when Abraham and his elderly wife didn’t even think they could have a child.

As many other Biblical and historical accounts prove, our God loves to work magnificently through the weak and the most unlikely of circumstances.

I’m not making predictions about my future career, but I’m in awe of what God has already accomplished through the hardest time in my life. I am still amazed by all the chances I’ve been given to speak and write about the clinical and spiritual applications of what I’ve learned. I still aim to return to the world of clinical rehabilitation and believe I have a unique perspective to offer that community. But I have grown to recognize my current reality as valuable, too.

So let’s not minimize the miracles God can accomplish during a relaxed coffee date or a quiet hour of reading. While His work may certainly include adrenaline pumping, dramatic conversions, He is not limited to the stories we would label as thrilling. However quiet your life may seem right now, please don’t underestimate the eternity altering potential of your current journey.

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