Shepherding flocks, throwing stones at giants, and fighting in the wilderness.

Beauty is pain: this is what they tell girls when they have to endure things like high heels and eyebrow plucking. It’s funny, though, because this is just a worldly version of something God actually made for a purpose.

Beauty is pain. That’s why we go through refining fires in our lives — because our lives are a constant process of sanctification, always being purified more and more, so that the day we leave this earth, we look more like Jesus than we ever did before. This sounds like a perfectly logical analogy to draw and believe as truth, but truthfully, I am not good at loving the fire when I’m in it. I’m actually kind of terrible at it.

I feel like I’ve had the same conversation with so many of my peers over and over lately, about how being in your twenties is just kind of hard. All of us know where we want to go, but none of us are there yet. I heard Christine Caine speak on this a few months back, and she called it the space between the anointing and the appointing.

So here we are, a bunch of not-yet-King-Davids, tending sheep and throwing stones at giants; making music and writing poetry. Learning how to slay the bad guys, and fight ferocious lions in the wilderness, and shepherd flocks day and night.

It’s kind of a rollercoaster, this season of life. Some days are the “I just killed Goliath” victorious, exciting, celebration-worthy days. But most days, if we’re honest, are the “what the hell am I doing in this field with all these sheep when God said I was supposed to be king” sort of days. Right? Or is that just me?

The more I live in this season, though, the more I’m realizing that there is purpose in this place. A couple of months ago, Noland and I did a 10-day media fast, to just sort of quiet our lives and hear God on some decisions we were making. During that time I was doing a lot of reading through old journals and boxes of letters, and one of the letters I revisited was one my dad wrote me when I went off to college.

He was releasing me to take risks, because they yield high reward. He encouraged me to embrace the conflict and drama that come with living a great story now that I was on my own. And at the end of the letter, he left a really cheesy list of “Dad Proverbs” to guide me. I was playing college soccer at the time, so one of the things he said was, “Practice so hard that games feel like a vacation.”

Those words jumped off the page as I read them in this season. Isn’t that what your twenties feel like? Preparation for something? Surely this isn’t the real deal yet … but it sure does hurt.

Maybe it hurts now so it feels more natural later. Maybe this is the pre-season of my life’s fight. My endurance is stretching, my toughness is growing and my muscles are developing. Game day is coming, and it will certainly be a fight — it’s the fight — but what I’m working for now will pay off when the real fight comes.

Maybe life never gets easier, but the hard processes we go through prepare us for the real opposition. Suddenly the wilderness feels like a place I’m OK with going.

But I am an Israelite, wandering through the desert somewhere between Egypt and the Promised Land, complaining about the journey instead of celebrating my deliverance.

I’m impatient and insecure, with a tendency to take my eyes off Jesus when it gets hard, and searching for worth and purpose in people and things, or, the true plague of our generation, a news feed of two-by-two inch photos on the screen of a hand-held ashera pole: the idol we’re all easily bound to if we aren’t careful.

So if I go back to the way He led the Israelites, when He told Moses that He would cause His goodness to go before them, I can rest in the fact that this is my destiny. It’s all of our destiny — for His goodness and mercy to follow us. And pass by us, and go before us, and lead us into whatever is next.

And that’s enough! The uncertainty, the wondering, the wandering — it will always be the way following Him goes. He’s consistent in nature, but unpredictable in the ways He moves. I’m reminded that this is the adventure I’ve always loved.

We have to love the mystery because He has called us to see the invisible and do the impossible. We are made to call forth the not-yet, and walk into the not-seen.

I don’t think this ever changes on this side of Heaven, but maybe as we grow we just start to explore deeper into the unseen until the world isn’t our default anymore. Maybe our twenties are just hard because it’s the first time we’re really learning that it’s not about us, and there’s more than what we think we see or want.

You know what’s interesting to me? That 70 percent of the earth’s surface is under water. A majority of the surface area of creation, in the unseen. He put us on a planet with mystery all around us, and still we want to fight it instead of embrace it!

And yet the invitation is to walk on it. Oh Lord, let me be the disciple that jumps out of the boat, walking on an element I have no business walking on except that you’ve invited me to join you there.

Let me not write off the hard seasons of my life, wishing them away instead of learning every little thing you’ve placed me here to learn. Thank you that you train my hands for war and equip me with strength for the battle. (Psalm 18)

Today I will shepherd the flock in front of me, throw my measly little stones at scary giants, and learn to fight in the wilderness. For tomorrow, I will lead nations. You said so, and I trust you. Because you call me out to walk with you on the water, and you said I would do even greater things than that.

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