Profiles in the Gap
Angela Lademan is a youth minister living and working in Northern Virginia.
In my 26 years of life, I have learned one thing: Never. Make. Plans. The Lord always changes them. I don’t know if this is true for everyone (maybe most other people are more in tune to what God wants for their lives and plan accordingly from the beginning), but for me, I have rarely made a plan that ever worked out according to “the plan.” And you know what, it’s okay. God’s a little more creative than I am, and He has more confidence in me than I have in myself. So, it’s made for a much more exciting life than I could have dreamed up.
Six years ago, I studied abroad in Austria. The last day I was there, the Student Life Director said something I providentially needed to hear. He asked me what I was going to do once I graduated, and I told him that I didn’t know, I would just see what God wants. He gently but firmly replied, “But Angela, you need to do your part and let the Lord do the rest.”
This conversation has often replayed in my mind as I pick up the pieces of broken plans and gear up for another turn in the road. Sometimes I want to just stop walking and say, “What the heck, Lord! Fine, you pick me up and put me where you want me. I’m done and not contributing to this journey anymore.” But, Mark’s advice keeps me walking down the road and rolling with the punches. I have to keep moving in order to encounter the world, and to meet the new and unexpected people and experiences the Lord throws in my direction.
In the last four years of my life, according to the plan (you know, the nice little Catholic girl plan), I would have gotten married out of college and started a family and would be sitting at home all day in my perfect house in my perfect 50’s housewife outfit with my perfect “Leave it to Beaver” children (because those exist). Sorry, I know, can’t any of us women be a little more creative with the story we write for ourselves? While this is a beautiful story, what I think most of us women don’t realize is that in order to have this “perfect” little “Leave it to Beaver” family, you have to be ready to be a real woman, a real wife, and a real mother. Otherwise you are just playing house, and when the hardships come, you don’t know what to do with them (’cause, heck, nothing bad or unpleasant ever happened in “Leave it to Beaver”). Now, I still don’t know what the Lord is preparing me for, but I think there is no better boot camp than having a few years of singleness.
I wish I could say I’ve spent these years embracing every moment. I haven’t. It’s hard to detach from the plan. But even if I haven’t appreciated every moment in the present, I am looking back and am so grateful for every difficult experience, every unknown move, and every unexpected friendship. Every experience makes me ponder who I am, why I am doing what I’m doing, and what I want for my life. While I haven’t figured any of these things out completely, I have more and more opportunities to discover and become that woman the Lord wants me to be.
Highlights of the last few years: European travel and the Bahamas; missionary work with college, high school, and grade school students; living in four different states; deciding on a Friday morning to run away for the weekend (just because I can); speaking to large groups of teens and seeing them completely engaged; walking down the aisle in front of several best friends; letter-writing to close friends as they journey through discerning God’s will for them to be priests and religious; realizing that my workday consisted of listening to and praying with a young adult or teen who came into my office crying over something; finding myself in front of over 100 8th graders and bursting with joy to tell them that God wants so much for them; running around like a crazy person with paint all over my face followed by 10 2nd-4th grade boys because I was “Chief” for the week at camp; a half marathon; flying in a private jet; and the list goes on… But at the end of it all, finding myself in adoration and realizing that nothing else in my life has been constant except for the Eucharist, and realizing that at the end of the day that’s all that matters.
So, if one day I find myself in my perfect little “Leave it to Beaver” life with healthy children and a happy husband, it will be because I’ve had a few years to learn to persevere through struggle and hardship, and because I learned that most things are actually a gift, and that faithfulness, no matter where it looks like it is going to bring me, is the only way God can bring about the most and best in my life.