I woke up with a hangover one cold winter morning when I was 19 years old. I was absolutely miserable. I hit the snooze button too many times and ended up rolling out of bed too late to make it to class. By that point, I couldn’t fall back asleep so I put on a hoodie and stumbled onto the back porch to smoke a cigarette. As I sat there feeling like a failure, I pulled out my journal and spent the next 30 minutes engaging in an activity that would have a profound impact on the rest of my life. I started to journal about the kind of woman I wanted to become. I got a clear picture in my head of what I want my life to look like in 5 years, 10 years and 40 years down the road. I wanted to become a woman characterized by wisdom and compassion.
I caught the vision of a sweet little old lady who would open her doors for anyone to sit down and talk with her. She’d pour them a cup of hot coffee, offer them cream and sugar, and listen to them share their hearts for hours on end. I wanted to be the kind of woman who would allow people to just be where they are — to look them straight in the eyes and really listen to them share, and then reflect back to them the positive attributes I could identify along with a few nuggets of truth that might challenge them. Of course I’d make them listen to my rants about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket and how when I was a little girl people could trust their neighbors enough to leave their doors unlocked. But I wanted to become a woman of integrity.
Then I took an inventory of my life at that moment and realized the trajectory wasn’t too promising. I was living it up at the moment and indulging in all the thrills I could find. Somehow I believed I would naturally morph into the sweet little old lady when I grew up. I was finally honest with myself and realized that I would become the kind of woman I determined to become on that day. We don’t just sin our way into becoming godly men and women of integrity. We don’t accidentally stumble into holiness. The choices we make today dictate the kind of people we will become. I can’t engage in promiscuous behavior right now and assume I will end up with a godly man and a few adorable little rascals running around the house calling me “mom”. If I tell lies now then I am going to grow into a dishonest adult who tells more intricate lies. If I am unfaithful now, what could lead me to believe I would be a faithful wife? It’s illogical. At the rate I was going, I knew I would grow into a bitter old woman who hated the church, used people for pleasure, and sought every opportunity to fill the gaping holes in my heart with cheap thrills. I lit another cigarette and kept writing.
On that cold winter morning I decided I was going to begin making choices that would logically lead me to grow into the compassionate woman of integrity I envisioned. It wasn’t going to be enough for me to want to become a godly woman; I was going to have to be that woman now. Growing older does not mean we grow better. It simply means we grow more into the people we have determined to become. The present moment is where we make that determination. Sour young women become unbearably bitter old ones. But gentle, compassionate young women who attempt to lead lives of honesty and confession will become the sweet little old lady who showers blessings upon those she touches and has a warm blanket to wrap around those who are cold and downtrodden.
I turned over a new leaf that morning, and the last few years have been a joyous adventure. God met me on my back porch, and He has held my hand every step of the way since then. I am not promised tomorrow so I have no idea if I will become the sweet little old lady that I picture every morning when I wake up. But I am given this moment to surrender to the Lord and serve the people who cross my path. The plan is to do it again tomorrow if I’m given another day, and then the next day, and the next. At that rate, I have every reason to believe He will be faithful to finish the work He began in me and mold me into a compassionate woman who exudes His grace and mercy.