Hi friends! It has been a busy start to 2019 for me, one of the busiest starts to a year that I have ever had. I started grad school this last August, and over the last few months for my graduate program I was required to take a preaching class. I just finished this class a few weeks ago, and I proudly write to you today because I survived, by the provision and grace of God, I survived.

Before this class I had never in my life preached a sermon. I stepped into this class in January with so much fear and anxiety, not really knowing what to expect, but also not sure if I was going to be able to preach well or preach at all. About halfway through the 8 week term, I started to become discouraged. I wasn’t making the perfect grades that I was used to making in my undergrad program. Because of this I began to doubt my abilities and calling that I KNOW God has placed on my life. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, and I am now pursuing a Master’s degree in Family Ministry. Straight A’s came easy to me in when I was earning my Social Work degree. I worked really hard for them and spent countless hours studying and writing papers, but I was blessed with the natural ability to understand the work and execute it well. Preaching challenged me. I had never done it before, therefore it did not come easy to me. Just because it did not come natural or easy to me, did not mean I could not do it, that I couldn’t do it well, and that I was on the “wrong” path outside of God’s will for me. In making these good grades, but less than perfect grades, I began to question my worth in God’s plan and began to allow my grades to define who I am and what I am capable of.

What I came to realize, with the help of some trusting and influential voices in my life, is that preaching was out of my comfort zone. I was not failing because it did not come easy to me; I was growing because it did not come easy to me. I had to shift my perspective if I was going to receive all that God had for me in this experience, learn what He intended for me to learn, and be the best version of myself that I could be for His glory. I am the only Bailey Rodgers. I am the only one who can be me best. I needed to be me in preaching. I needed to stop comparing myself to other preachers. I needed to embrace who I was and who God uniquely created me to be for His purposes, in preaching and in everyday life. I not only had to extend grace to myself, but I had to re-evaluate where my worth was coming from. My grades don’t determine my purpose and worth to God. School serves as a means of growth into my purpose. I had to surrender in order to grasp that I have purpose and am of worth to God no matter what. In this experience of taking a preaching class, God clarified and grew me further into the purpose He has for me, which was not dependent on my grades, but on the progress, growth, steps of faith, and improvements made.

What are you allowing to define you? What is determining your worth and purpose? Can I tell you something? Whatever that is, it does not define YOU, your WORTH, your PURPOSE, or GOD’S WILLINGNESS and ABILITY to use YOU. That thing that you are letting define you may be performance, like it was for me. Maybe it’s acceptance, relationships, abilities, or outward appearance. I was reading in a book called You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado and he discussed something so important for us to understand: nothing can change your destiny, that destiny being that you are a child of God. You are God’s first choice, and He chose you willingly and intentionally. Lucado says that no matter how much you have seemingly lost or failed, you haven’t because nothing can make you lose your destiny as a chosen child of God. You are His forever, and God uses all things for the purposes He has for your life. He just calls us to trust Him and remain faithful.

I learned something when I was going to school for social work that I will never forget. It had to do with how we label or define others. Instead of defining someone by their “problem/failure,” we need to define them by who they are first and what they possess second. For example, by saying “this is a disabled child,” we are saying that the child’s identity is in his/her disability. Instead, we should say, ‘this is a child with a disability.” In this form, the child is first given their identity as a child and then a description of what is secondary to their identity. We need to adopt this same method when we define ourselves. We are not failures. We are not mistakes. We are not ugly. We are worthy. We are beautiful. We are children of God. We may be children of God with some extra baggage, but that extra baggage does not change the fact that we are children of God; it does not define us. I believe it makes us more into who He created us to be because He uses it for our good and for His glorious purposes.

Even in my doubts and discouragement, I see God working and providing. I don’t always ask Him to, I sometimes don’t even know that I need to ask Him to. But He does it anyways, above and beyond what I could have dreamed or desired. God is not only affirming where He has placed me, but He is showing me in so many ways how He plans to use my social work skills in my ministry skills. It’s beautiful and opens so many doors for change to be made in the world. God is working for you wherever you find yourself right now. He is using you, working, and providing for you despite your doubts and discouragement. Open your eyes, and take a look around at how He is growing you and the beautiful person He is creating you to be for His purpose. See your value and your unique worth. You aren’t going to want to miss it.