I need to tell ya’ll a story about a 15-year-old girl and Psalm 37, specifically verse 4, which says, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This girl was faced with a big decision when the spring of her sophomore year of high school was nearing an end: to try out for cheerleading again or not.
You need to know that this girl was already a cheerleader, a sport she took up nine years earlier recreationally, then competitively, then finally at the high school JV level. She cheered with the same group of girls, give or take a few each year, and she considered these girls her absolute best friends. She wasn’t like them, though, and she always felt like the odd man out for a multitude of reasons… And really she always knew there had to be something more.
Looking at this girl’s story now, I know that teenage girls are cruel, no matter what. They really have the capacity to be someone’s best friend in the whole wide world one minute and something entirely devious and nearly evil the next. I recommend checking out this post from #soulscripts for great insight on that.
With that being said, it’s important that I note that today the girl and her old friends are still acquaintances, perfectly capable of being friendly and supporting each other in all of life’s endeavors. I don’t know why God made teenage girls so mean, but I’ve found it to be inevitable.
Anyways, this girl was different. She loved cheerleading. She loved being a back spot and having the responsibility of calling stunts, keeping them sturdy, and never letting her flyer hit the ground. She loved being in front of people and hearing her voice rise above the rest. She loved being part of a team. But this girl didn’t love tumbling. She developed a mental block that stayed with her through all nine years. Her body knew what to do, but she could never do it. The girl didn’t have a chance at making varsity without tumbling, and she was so, so frustrated. Why? she asked God. WHY?
And so, when she was 15, she decided to say goodbye to cheerleading the only way she knew how: in writing. It was fitting that one of the cheer coaches was also her newspaper adviser, so with great courage, she met with her and confirmed her decision not to try out for the next year. It’s heartbreaking to read this in her newspaper article: “My body is not built to tumble. For nine years I had the goal of becoming a varsity cheerleader. I will never reach that goal.”
On the night her old friends were going to find out if they made the team, Nicholas Sparks’s The Last Song hit the theaters. The girl loved Nicholas Sparks just as much as she loved cheerleading back then. Knowing that the plot of the story was really written for fathers and daughters, she took her daddy on a date to see the movie while all of her old friends sat a few rows behind them in the theater, buzzing about the tryout results being posted at midnight. And so the girl cried, not only because she couldn’t ever imagine losing her own father, but because she really did lose the biggest part of her life.
What happens next, can only be explained by Psalm 37:23-24, which says, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.”
In her same farewell story to cheerleading, the girl wrote, “I want to see what else life has to offer by closing the door to cheerleading and moving forward to open new doors.” The girl went on to become the varsity baseball manager for three years, the Editor-in-Chief of her school’s newspaper, the president of her class, and a paid intern at a local newspaper her senior year. She got a job at a family-owned restaurant, and she graduated high school in the top 10 percent of her class. She spent an entire summer in Southern California, went away to college, and then she started writing this blog.
The girl is me, and looking back, I wish more than anything that I could share with her the faith I have today, which is why instead I’m sharing it with you. I had no idea how faithful God could be in what I desired for my own life, and I never knew that some of my messiest steps would be so firm in the Lord’s plan for my life. God is so good.
When I had to make that choice five years ago, I thought giving up on two more years of cheerleading in addition to my nine was everything. And I can hear God saying now, with perfect clarity, “Jessica, I didn’t give you two more years as a cheerleader on varsity because I knew I would give you an indefinite number of years as a varsity cheer coach.” And He did, after nearly a year of prayers and persistence, the desires of my heart never wavering, I was hired as an Assistant Varsity Cheer Coach at my high school last month. I made it. Finally.
When I was 15, I had no idea I wanted to be a teacher, and now that desire is greater than anything else in my heart. God knew that five years ago. He was always going to mold me into a teacher. If I hadn’t quit cheer, I wouldn’t have gotten a part-time job. If I hadn’t gotten a part-time job, I wouldn’t have developed the amazing network I have today. Without my network, I wouldn’t have been able to discover my gifts in writing as in intern reporter. If I hadn’t discovered my gifts as a writer, I wouldn’t have been so sure about Mizzou. If I hadn’t gone to Mizzou, I wouldn’t have stumbled and been broken to be remade with Christ in my heart. If I hadn’t stumbled at Mizzou, I wouldn’t have chosen to study education at UCM instead. If I wasn’t at UCM, I wouldn’t be the teacher that I am becoming. If I didn’t want to be a teacher, I never would’ve considered coaching cheerleading. Now the two just make sense. Of course I’m a cheer coach and I’m (almost!!!) a teacher.
Leading up to writing this post, I continuously heard Natalie Grant’s “King of the World “on K-Love. The chorus says, “When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?/I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world/How could I make you so small/When you’re the one who holds it all/When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?” Don’t forget. (PS the acoustic version is super pretty so I’ve attached it at the bottom of this post.)
This is my senior year of college, and more choices and tough decisions lie ahead in my future, as they always will. As anxious and nervous as I am, I know Who knows the desires of my heart and holds me in His hands. That goes for you too, whether you’re trying out for cheerleading yourself, joining a club, choosing a sorority, choosing a major, or applying for your first real world job. I’ve been there, and I’m with you, and I hope Psalm 37 can provide you the same comfort that I’ve found. God knows what’s on your heart, and He is faithful.