I've been home for a month. And, like most people, I'm not at all where I expected to be at this point in my life. My best friend Lindsay and I had grand plans of living in Chatty for a year, cooking exotic foods, and being lovable and well-paid members of the Chattanooga neighborhood. Even that is a far cry from my original game plan. In high school, my plans were Ivy-covered, and did not at all consider the possibilities of marriage, failure, or smallness. But there was no Harvard for me, and my time at Bryan, if it did nothing else, mellowed my selfish dreams of greatness, and turned a self-focused over-achiever into, I hope, a good friend, content to deeply and quietly invest in a few lives rather than superficially know many people from behind a microphone. And now, here I am, at the end of those mellowing four years, back at home. In a small town (not even a Wal-Mart), working a small, part-time job ("Would you like a cup or a cone?"), even attending a small church, finding joy in cleaning up clutter and cooking a good dinner. Often, the dragon of self-importance comes skulking, breathing ash on my present contentment: My my, what a small life. What would you have thought if someone told you this is where you'd be? And you were "Most Likely to Succeed," weren't you? What happened to greatness? And then I miserably wonder, what happened to greatness? How can I possibly be improving the community or myself by living such an incredibly small life as I am living now?
But I must remember, for it is my only hope, that God is good, and that He is no less present or active here than in Chattanooga or Cambridge. And He is no less good or powerful or soveriegn just because I see myself in a small role than if I were the lead writer for the New York Times, or actually getting paid to write poetry. I forget that the waiting itself is a phase. I think that the transition doesn't count except as dead time in the span my life, but they are often the most growing, the most telling times. The times of being led to a place I do not want to go for an unknown length of time are the times when my character is both clearest shown and, hopefully, strengthened and improved.
I do live a small life. I work 20 hours a week waitressing and scooping ice cream for the same regulars at lunch and a host of tourists on the weekends. I live at home with my parents and our dog, and I attend an incredibly small, incredibly old-fashioned church on Sundays. I enjoy cooking supper. I have one friend in town. But, godliness with contentment is great gain (I Timothy 6:6). More important than making money or winning friends or influencing people or being who other people think I should be. I may never be a world-changing published poet. But I can be godly and content.