“I’m willing to be wrong.”
I will never forget the day my sister said these words to me. We were sitting on the closet floor of our mother’s bedroom. I had tears running down my face. She had just finished praying for me, her hand resting on my knee.
“We have to give these things to God, Ruthie,” she told me. “That’s all we can do. Pray, and trust Him to make a way for us, a way for our future.”
“But I feel like we don’t have a future! What is there for us but to keep waking up, day after day, staring out the window, waiting for things to change? When am I going to be allowed to make choices, to move forward, to feel like I have a purpose? What do I have to look forward to?”
Even as I write these words, the pain that I felt then, in that little closet, hunched over on the floor, pulses in my chest like a fresh wound. The anguish I felt then remains with me, though it’s sting is not so painful now, it’s ache not so strong. Time and a change of scene has washed some of the suffering away. But it’s the unanswered question that weighs on the back of my mind, the cry that I routinely lift to God. And though relief is always given, the hole remains only partly filled.
For me it began a few months after turning twenty-one.
Up until this point, I had been content to wait for the future that I had kept so secretly and closely held to my heart. A future that I often escaped to in the privacy of my thoughts, a future I painted in my head like a castle in the clouds. In this sweet little bubble, I was a young and independent writer, tucked away in a book-filled apartment, a cat purring in my lap. I thought of the books I would write, the stories I would tell, the blogs I would fill. In my wildest dreams, I would live in England, in the country, maybe in a cottage. In my more staid and practical fantasizing, it was simply an apartment a few miles from my parents, where we could visit often but I would still have my own space. (An introverted writer’s wildest dream: a place of her own!)
I dreamed of travel, of buying my family all the special little things I could, of having my own car.
When I was younger, I expected these dreams to come to pass. I imagined that sooner or later, things would fall into place and some of the dreams that were tucked so secretly in my heart would begin to become real.
But as I got older, none of these things happened. One year to the next, nothing changed. And as I got older, and grew more and more lonely, more and more sad, I began to think about the concept of independence like I never had before. It felt like a world the rest of my peers all inhabited, Christian and secular, which was kept strictly closed off to me. I didn’t understand why.
I had always tried to be the most perfect daughter, the most caring and loyal sister. I had always loved God and I had always done my best to love others, too. I had never had many friends growing up; I was shy and wasn’t very good at socializing. My siblings were my friends.
But all through childhood and teen years, I thought of the future like a prize that was waiting for me at the end of the tunnel. One day, I would have my books and my apartment and my car and a desk to write at and a window seat and classical music playing on the stereo. I would bring over my siblings for sleepovers and whisk away my mom for dinners out or trips to the bookstore. I would have a handful of godly friends, people to encourage and be encouraged by. I had it all mapped out in my head. And then someday I would meet somebody who loved God and would love me, and we would get married and have children and I would homeschool them and have a garden and go on little trips to museums and libraries and have kittens…
I have always been a bit of a dreamer.
But the life all around me was pain-filled and poverty-stricken. I could go months without leaving the house if I didn’t make an effort, simply because there was nowhere to go… nothing to do… nobody to see. When I was younger, this didn’t bother me. I liked to be left alone with my books. As I got older, this became a subject of grief to me.
If I were to die tomorrow, I would think, nobody on this earth would know or care… None but my family.
If I were to die, then all the books I wanted to write and all the words that are stacked up all around me would die with me.
What do I have to look forward to? I began to think dully. Of course, it took a long time to get to this point. In the beginning, I would quench the thoughts as quickly as they came. Well, I have to clean the living room today and I have to do school with my little brother and I have to do a workout, I would try to think cheerfully. And I would go about doing what I needed to do. But every day was like the day before it. And every day held a new form of tragedy.
My family had recently fallen apart. And every day brought new waves of fresh pain and sorrow over the state we had come to. I felt lonely and broken and I was very depressed. I thought about death a lot. In moments when things were spinning out of control, I would tell myself, “It doesn’t matter; nothing matters but that in the end, I go to Heaven.” And this helped. I also memorized a quote by Elisabeth Elliot: “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” Sometimes I would sit and write those words in my journal over and over again, tears stinging behind my eyes. The secret is Christ in me… The secret is Christ in me…
My sister was going through a similar challenge though with far more grace and patience than I was.
“Ruthie, God has a beautiful future for us both. We simply have to trust Him,” she would tell me.
“I feel like God has forgotten me. I’m just going to grow old sleeping on my mother’s floor. My life has no purpose.”
On this particular day, the day we found ourselves sitting on the closet floor, I was having a full blown panic attack. My chest hurt and I couldn’t breathe. The weight of all the choices I was unable to make, all the dreams that were being held so far out of reach, pressed on me like a sack of bricks.
“I don’t understand. I don’t understand why our lives are like this. I feel so confused,” I cried.
She stared at me with mirroring pain in her eyes. She let me talk and talk, the words pouring out in aching, heaving whispers as tears streaked down my cheeks. And when I had finished, she put her hand on my knee.
“Ruthie, these are things that trouble me, too. All we can do is keep praying and keep trusting and keep believing that God hasn’t forgotten us, that He knows the desires of our hearts and that He will cause them to come to pass in His perfect timing.”
“But what is they don’t? What if this is all there is for us? What if we’re thirty and things haven’t changed? I can’t do it, I won’t make it…”
“Ruthie, here’s the thing that I have learned about our life and our family and the way that things are. Each of us has a personal relationship with God. And only He really knows the desires of our hearts. It’s okay that we feel this way. We’re young women now and we’re just trying to grow up. And I feel just as you do. It’s something I’m continually praying about and I think God is beginning to reveal certain things to me about these issues. But Ruthie? I’m willing to be wrong. If this is only a matter of submission, then I’m willing to submit. I’ve submitted already. But I’m going to keep lifting up my prayers to God, trusting that He’s heard them, trusting that He will make a way for us. And if God doesn’t grant the thing that we’re asking, at least we can rest, knowing that He heard us and knowing that He has a plan for us.”
I remember pausing, the tears still running, but falling more thoughtfully. I sniffed and the words chimed inside my head. Willing to be wrong.
What a thing to say.
Over the months that followed, every time my struggle rose up, every time I went to God and fell crying to my knees in the bathroom, every time I laid in bed and stared at the wall, my sadness like a blanket that was choking me, I thought about those words. Willing to be wrong.
I continued to give my desires to Lord… over and over again. I continued to lift up my hopes and dreams. But I never forgot those words and they made their way into a lot of my prayers: “God, I believe that You love me. I believe that You have my back and that You are faithful. God, this is how I feel about this. And this is what I am asking You to do. But God? God, I am willing to be wrong. If what I am asking for is not Your will for me, then give me the grace to accept it. Help me to embrace whatever life You have planned for me and not be bitter. But oh Lord… just don’t forget me. Please don’t forget my heart.”
There is something powerful about the word “willing.” There is something extraordinary about such a phrase as this: I’m willing to be wrong. Because it means you’re willing to lay it all down. It means you’re willing to surrender even your view, even your perspective, even your desires, and say, God, I’m willing. Here is how I feel. Do with it what You will.
It isn’t easy to write about something that still troubles me at times. It isn’t easy to lay it all out in black and white when there are still things in my heart that only God can solve. But there is this: I can say, with full confidence, that God heard my prayers. I can say, with full confidence, that I have seen some of those prayers answered. And I know, though the going is sometimes rough and I don’t always see a clear and decisive path, that God can make a way where there is no way and do the unexpected – even the impossible.
Every single one of us. Doesn’t matter our age. We are free no matter where our bodies might happen to be. Paul was free in his prison cell, wasn’t he? His body was in chains but his spirit was free, soaring above the clouds with the Lord.
If you feel like your life is not your own, that your choices are limited and only God knows the depth of your turmoil: remember this, you have a God who knows you better than you know yourself. He created you. He has your best in mind. He will use the situations of your life to refine and perfect you. He hasn’t forgotten you.
Give Him your heart and be willing to lay it all on the altar. That’s what it means to be willing to be wrong. When you approach Him in this spirit, you are being fully heard… He takes it all into account and then He will provide the way and the solution. It won’t be something you’re able to create yourself. He will shape the circumstances surrounding you and carry you into the place He wants you.
All you must do is come to Him with your whole heart and He will do the rest.
About the Author:
Ruth Elijah is a twenty-something writer, memoirist, and freelance transcriptionist that grew up in Puerto Rico. Occasionally, she blogs over at Ruth, Writer. She currently lives in Maryland.