I grew up in an impoverished rural area between mill towns in upstate South Carolina. Many of the folks in my neighborhood shared some similar struggles. Many were uneducated, poor, unemployed or underemployed, addicted to drugs and alcohol, victims or perpetrators of domestic violence, and in trouble with the law. When I was a kid, there was not a lot of purpose and hope in my world.
But there was something inside me that told me there must be more than this. And this awareness was often fed and nurtured by teachers, Christian friends and family, and my optometrist (who gave me my first dictionary and encouraged me to read it.) I grew to believe that things could change; that things could be different, better. This belief sparked my love of learning.
As I grew through my teens, there were others who would nurture my hope, (including the friends who gave me my first Bible and encouraged me to read it.) Through this book and these relationships, I grew to believe more strongly that my life could change; that things could be different, spiritually. This belief sparked my faith in God.
My life turned out quite differently than my beginnings might have portended. It has been a very long (and sometimes difficult) journey of learning since my first steps in faith, but the journey has been full of renewed hope and purpose.
Since that journey began, I have continually felt that God’s plan in unfolding in my life. Since I expressed faith in Christ, I have approached every stage of life as a directed adventure from God. Whether studying as an undergrad, raising a family, serving in vocational ministry, doing research in graduate school, teaching in the classroom, volunteering in the community, or working in emerging areas in my field, I have felt that I was where I should be, doing what I should be doing.
Do I always succeed? No. Do I always exemplify the perfect character? No. Do I always make the best decisions? No. But I always find forgiveness and renewed hope to recommit myself to fulfilling the purpose laid out for me. And, surprisingly, the older I get, the more resolve I discover. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, “I cannot rest from travel” because I still feel “Some work of noble note, may yet be done.” And my experience in the journey is such that I encourage others to join me in believing that things can be different, better. “Come, my friends, ‘t is not too late to seek a newer world.”