For many years in my teens and early twenties, I had a motto, a signature statement if you will—Laugh, Smile, Be Happy!!! It decorated my notebooks and it was my sign-off in written communications. It was the mantra for my life. But I wasn’t happy and I forced myself to smile. In my depression, every laugh came with a price—the better the laugh, the farther and harder I fell back into despair. It wasn’t who I was but what was expected of me by my family, my friends, my teachers, and coworkers. Sometimes, I faked it so well, I even managed to fool myself for a few moments now and then. Even if it wasn’t so, the illusion of it was the ultimate goal, the prize for doing everything right.
Twenty-five years, lots of hard work and a little therapy have taught me how misguided and detrimental trying to live up to that ideal can be. I’ve learned that being honest with and about my emotions, even if it is uncomfortable at times for myself or others, actually helps me be a more joyful and happy person than pretending to be ever did. Accepting that I can’t live up to other people’s expectations of who I should be not only is liberating but I often find that I far exceed expectations when I’m not limited by others’ opinions of who I am.
So I’ve been thinking that it’s time for a new motto. I’ve thought long and hard about it. It has to be something I can aspire to and inspire in others. Something that speaks volumes about who I am and what really matters to me. The first word that came to mind is hope. From a hopelessness that flirted with death, God grew a rock solid lighthouse of hope in my heart and of my life. He is the hope to which I cling and which clings to me even tighter. Hope is my gift and my joyous duty to share and spread with others.
The second word that came to mind is love. In my life, the enemy has tried hard to irrevocably wound my heart in many ways, but what he meant for evil, God has used for good. God formed in me a deep empathy for all people who are hurting. From the fertile ground of my own woundedness he has cultivated a holy compassion for others.
Lastly, I thought of the word pray because prayer is being in the presence of and talking with my Savior and Lord Jesus. It not only describes my connection with him but the power he gave me to reach out and help others. Most people overlook the power of prayer. Even I don’t really know the power of prayer as well as I could. Jesus tells us in John 16:22-24, Jesus tell us that the Father will give us whatever we ask in his name. If we ask, we will receive, and our joy will be complete. I may not be able to heal a broken heart but God can and will. He waits for me to ask. It’s my greatest responsibility and honor to bring a friend’s brokenness to the Lord so that he can heal their pain.
So there it is, the new signature statement for my life—Hope, Love, Pray! It’s going to be a joy to live and grow by it.