I met a prophetess once who lived beside a city landfill in Nicaragua, her house this bright spot of color on the edge of the debris. La Chureca, just outside Managua. She was a small woman with a big voice, and the kind of face that makes you want to stare until you know the story behind it.
When she prayed for me, she sucked in her breath like she'd seen something troubling, and said, "You will have a hard life, but you are fully in God's hands."
I said nothing. I was twenty years old, and my life hadn't been hard. I worried about what that old woman saw when she closed her eyes, her small statement carrying such weight.
Her words still come back to me sometimes, when I think about my life.
There are two ways to look at most things, and the way I see my own life is no exception. Some days I see it as a grand adventure; transitional, because I have yet to put down roots in a conventional way. I am living in a studio in Europe, with the ability to explore nearby countries and experience other cultures, with time for my boys and for making art; so very blessed. In half a year we'll be moving somewhere else, and so the adventure continues.
On the other hand, there are days when I see my life as misguided. Twenty-seven years old and living in 38 sq. meters with a hot plate instead of a kitchen, divvying up my time between illustrations and data projects that will never qualify as gainful employment, dearly missing my family and the sun, without any idea as to where I'll be living in six months or what I'll be doing.
On those days, I settle into old questions of self-worth, wondering if I should have a career by now, or be making a more permanent home for my family, or contributing in a bigger way to ... something.
Should I be so much more, at this point in my life?
Occasionally I see this question mirrored in other people as well, in the things they say or the way they act, even in their expressions. This unsatisfied longing to feel worthy, necessary, enough.
C.S. Lewis explained this need when he wrote how 'most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. [...] The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning, can really satisfy.'
Even though I believe this to be true, it can be easy to forget. I will distractedly begin measuring my life by the wrong yardstick, and end up feeling unsatisfied - or worse, like a failure.
In one of his messages, Louie Giglio said that the first basic question all of us ask is 'does my life count?' His answer is profound, and at the same time simple: 'Extraordinarily so ... and it's not because of [any accomplishment or possession] ... You and I have extraordinary value because we were made by Jesus ... for Jesus.'
Even more profound, we have been 'invited to live our lives knowing him.'
When I am reminded of this incredible truth, I think of that old prophetess and what she said to me. Over time, I have come to see her words not as a threat, but a blessing. A beautiful promise of safety and of value.
I am fully in God's hands, and this is where my true worth lies.