What is the one word that brings together both grief and joy for a parent? The word that you long for, but dread when it inches closer and closer to reality. I had to say that dreaded word a few weeks ago when we traveled to Santa Barbara, CA to Westmont College with our son, Michael. We spent an amazing three days participating in parent’s orientation, and on the third day, the time finally came for me to hug my son and say GOODBYE! I’m tearing up just writing it here on my blog. Goodbye. We hugged and said those final precious goodbye words as we watched him walk away to start his incredible new journey at college. I had prepared my heart the past year, saying goodbye to him when we left for Ethiopia, but he joined us in Haiti and Nicaragua, so the goodbyes were only temporary. This goodbye felt more real, more permanent. I was saying goodbye to 19 years living under our care, living under our roof, joining our family for every birthday, and special event. Things would be different now. Life changes and our children grow up. What never changes is our love and support and cheers and prayers, especially when we say goodbye.
We are so proud of Michael and reaching for his BIG dreams. He called me the other day and wanted to share with me his speech he wrote for his public speaking class. I was totally not prepared for the story I heard him share in such a powerful, inspiring speech. I bawled like only a mama can do and begged him to let me share it with you here on the blog. I think what made the speech so special was hearing in his own words the pain and disappointments he experienced this past year and what God taught him through it all. He tweeted this yesterday:
“When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is,
remember the teacher is always quiet during a test.” ChristineCaine
This is my son, Michael’s story:
From the moment I drove into the gates of Westmont College, nestled in the middle of the Montecito hills in the heart of Santa Barbara, CA I was asked the same questions over and over. Student affectionately refer to these as the typical Westmont questions which all start off with “Where are you from?” When I answer that I’m from Missouri, all of the California natives look at me with amazement saying things like “whoa dude what made you come out here?” or “how did you find Westmont?” when in reality that question means so much more to me than meets the eye.
For me, that story begins one year ago today. I was sitting in a small community college in Springfield, MO wondering if my life was significant? If it had a purpose? If I was ever going to be able to achieve these massive dreams that were engrained so deep within me? And maybe at times questioning my own faith.
But that all changed on October 30, 2012 when well known author and speaker, Christine Caine spoke at my home church, James River Assembly. She spoke things into my life that I will never forget as long as I live. She said “in order to achieve the impossible through God, you must first put yourself into that circumstance.” Those words rocked my very existence. She also spoke from Mark 6 which tells the familiar story of when Jesus fed the multitudes. If you were ever in Sunday school growing up, you know this story. You know that the people saw Jesus and asked him to teach, he agreed and spoke well into the evening. The people began to grow hungry and asked for food. The disciples asked Jesus to let them go and eat, but Jesus simply replied “you feed them.” As we know, the disciples went into the crowd and found five loaves of bread and two fish. Specifically, in Mark 6:43 it reads “and they took up twelve baskets full of BROKEN pieces and of the fish.”
At that time in my life, I was broken. I graduated from high school in the Spring of 2012 ready to fulfill my purpose in the world. I had just competed in the Missouri State Golf Championship and was headed to Israel with my cousin and best friend, Taylor. I was also accepted to Missouri State University on probation, which meant I had to go that summer, make a 2.5 GPA and I would be allowed to attend in the Fall. Well as it turns out, after working my hardest, I got a 2.49. They refused to round up and in that moment I lost everything that meant so much to me. In that moment, I lost my acceptance to college, my spot in their journalism school, and the chance to room with my best friend from high school. And to make matters worse, I had no family to lean on. They were overseas on the mission field in Ethiopia. It actually wasn’t until a few days later until I got the chance to break the news. I had no job, no place to live, and if it wasn’t for my grandparents living in Branson, MO at the time, I don’t know what I would have done. In that moment I had no dream.
As you read this, you might feel like I felt in that moment. Maybe you are going through a massive trial that seems so dark you don’t know how you are going to navigate through it, and maybe that you don’t count in this big world. I was there. But I am here to tell you that God is a God of opportunity and love and when you put all of those things that don’t seem to count into the hands of a God that does count he will use it to feed the multitudes. But it is all about putting ourselves in that impossible circumstances.
You might say, what does that mean? Well for me, the impossible was Westmont. I knew that in order to achieve my dreams of eventually being on television, I had to put myself somewhere that wasn’t Springfield, MO, because when you think about it, there aren’t very many television opportunities in Springfield. I also knew that in order to be competitive in what I wanted to do I would need the best education. According to the U.S. News and World Report, I found that Westmont was among the most prestigious of not just Christian schools, but schools around the world academically. But who was I, someone with a 2.49 transferring GPA, ACT scores that would make the average admission counselor vomit, and a 2.3 high school GPA ever dream of being accepted to Westmont.
It wasn’t until I was on the beach in San Diego with my family on hiatus from our time in Nicaragua, dealing with the disappointed of yet another rejection to a large Christian school in the area that I got the email, “Congratulations Michael Gibson, Welcome to Westmont.”
Today, you might have that big dream, but it seems impossible and that it doesn’t count. I promise you, that if you take that leap of faith, and put yourself into that impossible circumstance, you can achieve the impossible! Howard Thurman, who was the Dean of Chapel at both Boston College and Howard University and a major influence to Martin Luther King Jr. said “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive. Because that’s what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I believe in you!