Not what I planned

When I was younger I never imagined that I would be living in Duluth MN….married…and a father. I saw myself more as a bachelor living in a major city. Chicago or New York maybe. What I have now is not what I planned.

I love the energy that a major city offers. The hustle and bustle is something that makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger, greater. I remember as a kid sitting on the front porch of my Grandparent’s home in the Wrigleyville area of Chicago. Even when the Cubs were not playing there seemed to always be something going on. People coming and going. Cars driving down the street, often times too fast for my Grandfather’s liking.

I remember walking down by Montrose beach, looking at the skyline and just being in awe. So many buildings, so many people, so much life. Of course, I assumed I would be single, then I could do as I pleased when I pleased.  I loved the city. I loved the idea of not having responsibilities.

That is so not what happened. My plans didn’t just change they went on a complete 180! I just found myself looking at farm land online. Farmland! I’m looking for a place with rolling hills, a spot for some horses and quiet. I don’t need anything extravagant. I want a small house, a shop to work in, and a front porch to sit with my family and watch the sun set in the evening. I want a simple life. The opposite of what I dreamed of growing up.

In fact at one point in my life I was so opposite of this I hated to look outside. My family growing up moved to a small town in Northwest Wisconsin. All I saw was forest in every direction. I hated those trees. I hated the town. It took me all of about a month after turning 18 to move to the city I am in now. A city that was meant to be a pit stop in the road on my way to the big city back in 1993.

So what happened? Mostly, it was because I met a girl. Women have a way of getting a man to change his mind about things. This one changed my mind about everything. I never wanted to stay in a smaller city. I didn’t want to have kids. I didn’t want to get married. I definitely never wanted to live on a horse ranch.

Two days ago I celebrated 19 years of marriage to that girl by driving home from the Celebrate Recovery Summit in Nashville Tennessee, with a teenager in the back seat and a travel trailer behind my pickup truck. I found myself looking at open fields wishing I owned one of them and wondering how I got to that point. And how in the world did I get to being happy about being at this point?

The answer is God.

My wife didn’t fix me. I didn’t develop a love for the land on a whim. I didn’t learn to enjoy the quiet. God changed my heart to not be afraid. I wanted busy to drown out the noise in my head. I wanted to stay single because it seemed safer than to risk being hurt. I was afraid to be a Dad because I didn’t want my child to turn out like me.

I am not a different person than I was growing up. I didn’t lose me by becoming a Christian, by sobering up, by risking to love. I became me. I am able to realize who I am. I am able to realize who God created me to be. And here is the strange part. I like it. I like who God is shaping me to be. I haven’t arrived yet, but I can see where I am going and I like it.

If you are struggling to see where you are going. If you are struggling to see hope. If you are struggling to see purpose. If you are struggling to see your worth. Please hear me when I say that it won’t always be this way. I will never promise that life will be perfect. It won’t. You will get hurt, you will have loss, you may have to live in a small city that somehow manages to get 13 months of winter every year. However, if you hang on, if you let God have control, you will find your way. Something I never thought I would do. But the reason I couldn’t see it was because I was looking for it in the opposite direction. What I wanted was not what God wanted. And what God wanted is so much better. Please don’t give up. If you are willing, over time, God will show you a way. It may be just a different way than you thought. A better way.

We can’t force happiness, but God can cultivate joy. Don’t give up.

Nate Stewart

National Director of Mental Health for Celebrate Recovery


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