I post a lot on this blog about my own struggles being 24 and figuring out life. I complain and talk about how bad I feel I have it. I spill out my self-doubt on the Internet because that’s a totally wise thing to do.
And then I hear stories about girls like Kayla Mueller and I realize that maybe I’m focusing on the wrong things.
For those of you who don’t know, Kayla Mueller was a 26 year-old aid worker in Syria whose death was recently confirmed. Her life was an example of a life I’d like to live — one full of meaning and hope for others. While many people in my generation wish to be heard and seen, Kayla just wished to help. I am guilty of being selfish. I am guilty of wanting a life of fame and glamour instead of a life that helps. I am guilty of trying desperately to be noticed, forgetting that there are millions in the world who are suffering and don’t have the luxury of a blog to share their lives on.
But then I hear about girls like Kayla who find joy in their suffering and it causes me to take step back and re-evaluate things. It is then I remember that there is more to life than just a desire to be known. I think that maybe a life of freedom is more than a life full of awards and recognition.
But as a quarter-lifer, the cold hard truth is that many people don’t encourage me to trade my life of safety and prosperity for a life that pours itself out onto the “least of these.” While in college, many people spoke to me about how to become successful, but there were few who spoke to me about how to become fulfilled. How to find happiness.
And I think that pouring your life out for others so they can be healed, redeemed and have hope is really a life worth living. Selfishness just doesn’t do it for me. Selfishness only leads me down a dark and narrow path where I am obsessed with myself and how others see me. Selfishness doesn’t move its hands and feet to rescue sex slaves or feed the hungry or comfort the brokenhearted. Selfishness is empty.
So why do I forget? Why do I not remember those times when I lived not for myself, but to show God’s love? Those moments were full of faith and joy. I felt full and satisfied. I felt like I was doing what I was made to do.
I’ll never forget the words one woman said to me one day after a service-based project in Colorado. I had just commented that the trip was really satisfying for me and I was full of joy. This woman looked at me and said, “Isn’t it funny how the world has it backwards? We think that if we live for ourselves, we’ll be happy, but really, serving others brings us joy.”
I believe those words. I believe them because I have experienced them. Yes, we can have normal jobs and follow our dreams and visit the “100 Places You Must See Before You Die,” but I hope I never forget that if I only do those things, then I’m missing out on a life that is extraordinary. A life that is not about stuff and adventurous vacations but about people.
I am not speaking out of an obligation to serve others. Because if you’re only helping out of an obligation, then it really isn’t you serving. It’s the obligation. Only when you have claimed your life as your own can you actually give it away. This is freedom.
I’m thankful for girls like Kayla who remind me of a freedom found through trusting Christ, the one who rescues us from ourselves.
Lord knows I need it.