I have a very clear memory of myself on one particular day in the spring of 9th grade, walking to Spanish class. My hair was short then—I had just chopped it all off for locks for love, and in the process I was experiencing this crazy awakening that came with the redefinition of myself. Where this awkward, uncomfortable, and out of place girl had once stood, high school presented me as a fresh sheet of paper, on which I could draw my own self-portrait and write my own story. I felt like I was a new person all-together, and I was looking ahead at four years of new experiences, growing up, coming into my own, and making a life for myself through my friendships, clubs, sports, and whatever else came my way.
On this particular day, I was dreaming of what I might be like senior year. Being a senior seemed a lifetime away, something that seemed it would never come. I imagined myself with senioritis, walking the halls as an upper classman, owning the school, much older and wiser and having it all together. I thought about that stranger—the future me—and wondered what she would be like. What would my style be like then? Would I still have short hair? Would I have a boyfriend? Would people know who I was? Would I sound older?
That moment from 9th grade stuck with me somewhere in the back of my mind. When senior year finally arrived, I was walking in the very same spot and suddenly remembered the way I had felt way back then— all the questions, the hopes, and especially that feeling that senior year felt so far away. The senior version of me was no longer a stranger. I was the vice president of our “senior sweep” class, columnist for the school paper, editor of the literary magazine, national honor society officer, manager of the wrestling team, marching band drum major, the homecoming queen. I was a lot of things, to a lot of different people. My hair was still short, I had a wonderful boyfriend, I had a lot of good friendships, but most of all, I was invincible.
I was invincible. I felt like nothing could touch me that I couldn’t handle. I was a senior, right? I had it all. The relationships, the extra-curriculars, the college acceptance letters. Life was a plot line and I was in the epilogue. The happily ever after. The “she rode off into the sunset” part. Nothing had ever or could ever again feel like senior year. I remember that feeling distinctly—even though it came and went in the blink of an eye, it was as if the Earth was coasting in slow motion rather than spinning the spring of senior year. The world had stopped turning, and it had left us unstoppable.
There is certainly something beautiful about the moments when we are young and feel untouchable, and I will hold that beauty in my heart for as long as I live. I will take it out and look at it every once in a while, like a family heirloom, and remember who I once was. But the fact of the matter is: the world keeps turning. It never really stopped, and it never really will.
I’m not quite the older, wiser person who has it all together that I had hoped four years in high school would help me become. In fact, I will never quite be the older and wiser person I dream of becoming. Never quite. But what I do have is the ability to look back at high school through the lens of my own experiences. I will tell you this, you are not invincible.
You aren’t. It’s important for you to know, not so you will think less of yourself or your accomplishments, but because a person who believes themselves invincible is a person who doesn’t bother with defenses. Relationships, positions, awards, reputations…none of these are eternal. And yet, I remember as a high schooler how essential to my own existence these things seemed. I was leaning, heavily, on the things of this world that do not last forever—the things of this world that can be taken away from us in an instant, or fade away slowly as our lives change. The invincibility I felt in high school had me pushing myself out into the water on a leaky raft. When you find yourself in that position, with your only sources of security deflating beneath you, what good can these things do you. How will you preserve yourself in the face of loss?
The Truth, with a capital T, is that the only invincibility lies in the Lord. Believe in Him, hope in Him, rely on Him. You still won’t be invincible in this life, but you will be holding onto something that is. As the water rises and falls, as life tosses you around, you will run no risk of losing yourself. After all, our Lord walks on water.
The things of this world fade away. Jobs, status, friendships, feelings…your day to day situations will forever be in flux. Even the people you know and love are not permanent in this life. Some fade in and out of the foreground, others will disappear from our world all together. Sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly. We are often shocked by these moments, when we are suddenly stripped of things we love or value, sometimes with no warning at all. In our mortality we are terrified of the loss of anything, even more so the loss of something or someone we feel has helped make us who we are. Although we know these moments are a fact of life, this does little to comfort us when we realize that instead of invincible, we are actually powerless.
Who will stand strong to the tests and struggles of this world? Who will be left in the wake of this tidal wave we call growing up? One thing is sure—those who are rooted in the Lord cannot be shaken. Those whose focus first and foremost is on the Lord, no matter what is changing in the world around them, will find the strength and the hope and the graces through Him to keep going.
I’ll share with you a quote that holds a special place on the family refrigerator to remind us of just this:
Do not fear what may happen tomorrow.
St. Francis De Sales reminds us of three things. First, no matter how life changes—for the better or the worse, drastically or in the tiny details—the Lord will be with us through it all. Day after day. Second: struggles and suffering are a fact of life that are not apart from the Lord. He awaits you not with a magic wand to wave suffering from your path, but with a love that will carry you straight through it.
Lastly, he reminds us of Christ’s call to be at peace. Be at peace?? How can I be at peace.Everything is changing. I feel as if my world could just sink beneath my feet and swallow me whole. For many of us, this feeling is all too familiar. In Matthew 7, Jesus tells the crowds about a man who built his house on a sand foundation. As our lives shift and change, as we experience growth, trials, and loss, a person who relies on the things of this world for stability not only struggles, but loses hope for themselves. As Christ tells the crowds who have gathered before Him,
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them,
Remember, you are not invincible… but you don’t need to be. The Lord is ready to be that for you--your rock. He is waiting for you patiently, not to make your life perfect, but to remind you to be at peace in Him. The part of your life you are in right now is just that, a part. A big part, a small part, a boring part, a beginning, an end… no matter the part you are in, now is the time to find the right foundation.
I wish each of you invincible peace in knowing the Lord has you on His heart always and has a great plan for how this part of your life will shape you in the next.
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