I look around and I see the unexpected taking place. Daily.
People get ready for their day, but they did not see the breakthrough coming or the tragedy that was awaiting them. They planned to have a good day, maybe even a great day, but somehow it did not turn out that way. The harsh and sometimes grateful realization that they are not the author of their lives is visible everywhere. That is what I see when I think about my own life.
My life has not played out the way I imagined it would. When I planned summers, life brought winters. When I was ready for a straight path, life gave me mountains to climb. Nothing could have prepared me for all the stones that life threw at me, stones with the potential of becoming destructive weapons or building blocks. The one thing that always kept me going was that I was not alone. I had Jesus and that meant there was something bigger and better waiting for me.
The present was not the end and my disability was not there to define me, not by God’s measures in any way but to set the stage for the great story God was about to write through me.
I was born with a disability on my left hand, called a lobster hand (meaning I only have a pinkie and a thumb). I was labeled as being different and was mocked throughout kindergarten and my school years, causing me to feel not good enough or accepted.
At the age of four I started playing tennis and quickly exceeded all expectations. I tried to earn my acceptance through my performance and it worked. I was accepted into the main draw at Junior Wimbledon when I was seventeen, a milestone which I thought was the essence of living my dream, but also the point where my tennis career was brought to a sudden halt.
My hands could not take all the pressure of playing professional sports and I was brought down on my knees facing just me and the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 that God placed on the table. A promise that what He has in store for me is greater than any plans I could have for myself. They were plans that not even a physical disability could stop.
In my moment of devastation, my journey of hope, God’s greater story for me in Christ, began.
I had to choose God and His ways above my own. What felt like a disastrous time became one of the most profound turnaround points of my life. The place where I realized my plans are not better than God’s plans, I surrendered the ideas I had for myself and handed over the pen to God to continue His story through me. A story, that if I look back after a fifteen years later, I could not have written any better. In fact I would have completely missed the anticipation of God-given breakthroughs on my faith journey with Jesus and the wonderful blessings of marriage, motherhood and an abundant life had I kept the pen in my own hand.
The choice always remain ours whether we are willing to surrender our own goodness to prosper in God’s greatness. No matter how that looks.
Maybe you were not born with a disability but have experienced disappointment, failure, tragedy or hard times in your life. Maybe you have struggled with your self-esteem or had plans for your life that did not turn out as you anticipated and you feel lost, inadequate or hopeless.
It is okay to face difficulties in life, but I invite you to not let them have the last say. Some of us may have bad beginnings. All of us have to cross a mountain at some point in our lives, but let those mountains become the new place from which you look back and see the splendid view God had prepared for you all along in spite of the struggles you had to endure.
May each day present an opportunity for you where God can write His divine words across the pages of your life. You are destined to be a beautiful story with impact that treads deep footsteps for God’s kingdom. Will you let Him?
Have you struggled to find your place of belonging? You can find my latest book, Your undiscovered family: The position of belonging you were destined to have here. In this book, you will find a way to become part of a unit that is stronger than any storm that may come across your path. You will see the undiscovered family you already belong to and into which you were chosen even before your existence. It is all about finding your place in Jesus and discovering the answer to every solution.
Maretha Retief is a follower of Jesus, a wife and mother of three who lives in Pretoria, South Africa. Being born with a disability, she writes with a purpose to reveal the love of Jesus to the world in spite of our shortcomings. With grace running through her veins, she enthusiastically thrives each day, one word at a time. She is happily married to her loving husband, Daniël. They have three children, Nerine, Mirra and Haniel and together they aim to walk inside God’s grace.