Updated: Apr 14
By Sarah Lessels
God's Brave Women - Sarah's Story
Life is always changing. Nothing stays the same forever. Bittersweet, right? Change can be really hard. While I have always loved adventure, I have simultaneously found myself staying in spaces for a long time or saying “no” because I was scared of the unknown. For example, I worked as a barista in a coffee shop for almost ten years. There were many benefits of that job. The people, the life lessons learned…and many years’ worth of free coffee! In retrospect, I also see how I held back and missed out on other opportunities because I was afraid of failure. With this realization, God is gently teaching me how to adventure in a new and beautiful way. It is never too late.
Over the past year a lot of change has happened. I am thankful for the ways that I have grown during this time. As I have stepped out in faith and navigated the unknown, Jesus has continued to be my source of comfort.
"As I have stepped out in faith and navigated the unknown, Jesus has continued to be my source of comfort."
It started late last summer when I transitioned out of my full-time job so that I could primarily focus on school. This was a hard decision. In retrospect, I know that this was the best thing for me. Why? Because I had all of the symptoms of burnout. For the previous year I had been working full time and going to school part time. I was able to manage well for many months. Then it became apparent that something had to change. Perfectionism had played a part in all of this and had resulted in me spending almost all of my time at work or at school. It was taking a toll. Even though I have an incredible group of friends, this was a very lonely time for me because I was not experiencing personal connection on a daily basis. As an aside, perfectionism is not healthy or sustainable. I am currently unlearning perfectionistic habits in my life.
I was exhausted for the first three months after this transition out of full-time work. After it had been a couple of months and I was still feeling depleted, I went to a medical provider to make sure that there wasn’t something else going on with me physically. There wasn’t. My body was simply recovering from a prolonged period of stress. Then slowly but surely, I started feeling like myself again.
Another change happened last fall. Something amazing. God helped me to truly understand that I am enough. Imperfections and all. While I have had a cognitive understanding of this for many years, I experienced an emotional understanding of this for the first time. Even though it may not have been apparent, I had always felt that I was somehow lacking. With this newfound understanding, that feeling of inferiority that I had was gone. What I had known in my head, I now felt in my heart. I am enough.
And then more growth. This part was especially hard. I realized that many of my past choices were driven by my belief that I didn’t measure up. I have a history of anxiety and sometimes I have had a difficult time processing information when anxious. Because I did not know as much about anxiety then as I do now, I concluded that I was not smart. I also thought that my anxiety was primarily a faith issue and concluded that I needed to be free from anxiety before stepping forward in certain areas of my life. Now I know that various factors impact whether someone has anxiety, including genetics, environmental factors, etc.
So, it was painful to reflect on how these beliefs impacted my vocational choices. And my relationship choices too. As I was processing through this late last year, I wished that I could go back and do things differently. I grieved lost opportunities. I felt sad for the younger version of myself who was wonderful but didn’t believe that she was enough. Tears were shed as I wrestled through the realization that fear had played such a large part in my life. During this time, I read old journals. It brought me comfort to realize that I was doing my best during those years. I was focusing on living out my faith.
These tears and grief eventually led me to a place of gratitude. I am thankful for who I am today. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some of the choices that I have made. Amazing parts of my life wouldn’t exist if I had done things differently. God has brought many blessings into my life. I recognize great resilience and strength in myself. Who knows if these qualities would be present to same degree if I had done things differently?
"I am thankful for who I am today. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some of the choices that I have made. Amazing parts of my life wouldn’t exist if I had done things differently. God has brought many blessings into my life."
I have learned that the opportunities in front of me today will not always be there. So, I have started taking more risks. Good life-giving risks. Both personally and professionally. Not from a place of fear but instead from a place of confidence. I have put myself out there and given it my all. Sometimes these risks worked out, sometimes they didn’t. And you know what? I have consistently learned from these experiences. Both joy and pain have been present in this process of risk taking. But through it all, I know that I am enough. In the midst of my imperfection I am enough. Thank you, Jesus.
No matter what you may be facing today, God cares about you and loves you. There is great adventure to be had. You are enough. My prayer is that we will continue to step out boldly in the face of the unknown. Because the risk involved is undoubtedly worth it.
Sarah is a pursuer of adventure and beauty. She is a closet introvert who enjoys remembering little details about others. Sarah loves helping people realize how valuable they are. She is passionate about advocating for the poor, the oppressed, and others who are at risk. Sarah has a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship from Moody Theological Seminary. She is working towards her Master of Social Work from University of Illinois at Chicago. Sarah is spending her summer exploring each one of Chicago’s 77 community areas. You can follow these adventures on Instagram @sarahelessels.
Make sure to check back next week as another courageous Sister shares her story!
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