Extending its arms in surrender to winter’s chilling breeze, the birch creaked and trembled. It seemed to beg, “How much longer before spring?” Nearby, a cluster of budding oaks flaunted its colors. They bent together and rustled as if whispering about her.
As I gazed at them I thought, this is a scene I’m well familiar with – an image of myself not long ago.
Self-confidence had been stripped from me as thoroughly as winter’s ravages had scrubbed that tree. I was fired from my job at the medical center one gray afternoon, and my hopes for establishing a career were replaced by an inner panic that I’d never accomplish anything. The questions my coworkers had asked weeks before stabbed at my self-worth: What was my background? Why didn’t I ever talk about my family? Why I didn’t drive a car?
While I looked down and away, my fumbled answers always triggered the sensation of my coworkers’ eyes boring holes in the top of my head. “I grew up in a foster family … my real mother is schizophrenic … I just never learned to drive.”
The awkward silences that followed would confirm what they thought of me: a nobody.
Bitter days followed, days of self-doubt and apathy. I forced myself through the motions of endless job-hunting. Meanwhile, fear pierced my mind with accusations: I would never make it on my own; I had failed at my first significant job; I was stupid – the fact that no one had wanted to teach me to drive proved it. I was a mixed-up girl from a mixed-up situation and would probably wind up being cared for in a group home like my mother. With each thought, despair drove at me to abandon hope.
Yet somehow I sensed God quietly urging me to hold on. He had brought me this far; He would see me through.
And then, in an attempt at devotions one day, I stumbled across a verse that stopped me in my tracks. “You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With Your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (Psalms 18:28-29, NIV).
The warm breath of God’s Word began to melt my self-doubt. Inner stirrings signified changes. It seemed I could feel tiny buds of life preparing to burst through.
Spring was on its way.
My Maker believed in me. He had placed His presence within me. With Him I could go forward.
I fell back on experience I’d overlooked – teaching Sunday school – and soon landed a job at a day-care center. The pay was low, but it was something I could do.
Stepping back from the desolation of my life, I attended to one bare branch at a time. The first thing, I decided, was to learn to drive. With God I can advance against a troop, I reminded myself. I can. I hired the only instructor I could afford – an unemployed construction worker from my church – and soon our Saturday morning driving lessons became routine.
In the meantime, I wrapped myself in my job. One towheaded toddler would run into my arms to greet me every morning before our play-time sessions. In the afternoons, I would watch flames of excitement leap into the eyes of school-age children as I entered their classroom bearing a harvest of crafts and games I’d gleaned from the public library. Their admiration for me cast its soft reflection on my heart. I am somebody. God and the children believe it. I need to believe it, too.
Even so, an icy memory of failure returned one rain-soaked Saturday. That morning, my driving instructor informed me, “You’ve tackled suburb driving. You’re ready for downtown traffic!” I cautiously navigated his mammoth Ford pickup to the edge of town, then plunged through the concrete web of streets. We were climbing a hill when the cool green light ahead snapped to yellow, then blazed red. I swallowed hard, my fingers clenching the wheel for support as we waited for the light to change. Starting out in first gear was my weak point already, without a hill to complicate things. All too soon, the light flashed to green. My left foot jumped at the clutch. No! I hadn’t eased enough gas with my right foot! The engine bucked like a wild horse and died. As we rolled treacherously, I caught a glimpse in the mirror of the march of cars behind us, its captain only inches from our truck’s tail. I yelped in panic.
My instructor brought us to a halt with a yank of the emergency brake, stepped crisply from the truck and in an instant replaced me in the driver’s seat.
I hunched in the passenger’s seat, shaken. All the ride home each raindrop punctuated the words in my mind, “You’ve never been able to accomplish anything! You can’t learn to drive!”
But my Maker beckoned me to look ahead. Through Him, I somehow managed to push the thoughts of failure away, clinging to the promise, “With God I can advance…”
The day-care owner called me to her office one afternoon. I took my seat with a smile crafted to hide my nervousness. Was she disappointed with me? “Please, God, not another dismissal,” I prayed.
“You have been a tremendous asset to the Creative Learning Center,” the owner began. “I want you to know you deserve better than this raise – but it’s all I can afford.”
Shock waves of joy reverberated through me. Yes, I could do some things!
The Lord continued to encourage me, weaving here a thoughtful word from my foster parents, there, an observation from a friend; the fibers of His love and acceptance. I gained the courage to acknowledge my flair for people skills. I realized I’d been dealt an extra helping of friendliness and warmth. With that realization, a dream began to form of using my skills as a receptionist.
Not long afterward, my dream came true. I heard of a real-estate firm’s opening and jumped at the chance for an interview. In the months ahead, through applying what I’d learned about God’s ability in me, I was touted by the company as “the best receptionist this office ever had.”
My Maker hadn’t abandoned me in the barren winter; He had worked within to form new life. And now, the small green jewels of His craftsmanship were beginning to sprout.
As I look back over the last few years, I’m awed at the changes God wrought in me. Through His promises, I was enabled to leave behind winter and cross into spring with many new beginnings: passing my driver’s test at first attempt, leading a church fellowship group, learning independence in my own apartment. Promotions at the real-estate firm brought me to my current position as executive secretary to the president. Little by little, God replaced my nobody image with the sense of value He places on my life.
The other day I noticed the birch outside my window. Its delicate blossoms now spread like an ornate fan.
Christine Suguitan, Virtue
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