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Drop the mic & go find Sarah.


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“What were you like at 20?”

Her text came through this morning in the middle of my writing hours.

I had to pause. Walk away from the computer. Find a space on the floor where, if you sit in just the right spot, the sunlight will flood through the window and cover your knees like a soft, thin blanket.

I honestly haven’t given much thought to who I was at 20 years old. That was seven years ago. I was a junior in college.

I responded to her text with a bunch of scenarios:

When I was 20, I had my first internship with the city’s newspaper. I wore high heels and strut around the campus center like I was really important— an absolute boss.

When I was 20, I was enamored with a boy who would read me Walt Whitman poetry at 2am and then take me for walks around campus at 4am. I wrote poems about him. I haven’t written a poem since him.

When I was 20, I was a perfectionist. As much as I would like to write that I was free and happy and spontaneous, I was really wrapped tightly into rules. I was dying for the approval of others. I had to look perfect at all times. It was a front & a facade. If there was a position at stake, I had to get it. If there was a grade to be made, I had to make it.

When I was 20, I had a lot of questions— most of them revolved around God. I wasn’t in the mode of trusting God, or actually even liking him. I was a bit angry about the amount of “hurdles” people seemed to place in front of the prospect of getting to God.

But I know I prayed big prayers. I know I prayed on more than a dozen occasions, “God, if you give me a voice then I will use it. If you give me something big to take care of, I won’t let you down.”

When I was 20, life could not move fast enough for me. People could not love me hard enough. The world could not understand me well enough.

I wanted more responsibility. I wanted more purpose.

“Does that help?” I type back to her.

She digs deeper.

“What was it like for you the summer before your senior year of college?”

“The best summer I’ve ever had,” I say. “I met my best friends. Last time I felt really known up until now.”

She goes on to tell me that everyone she knows is either engaged or moving into houses with roommates. She says that when she runs into the people, they just look at her like they expected more out of her.

“I’m not engaged or married,” she says. “I’m not even in a serious relationship. I don’t even have a person. I’ll graduate and probably still be living with my parents.

It’s 2015: the year nobody wants to be in love and everyone owns a selfie stick. And I’m starting to think the two are kind of related. We are stricken by the fear of missing out.”

This girl is wise. I cannot imagine people looking at her, at the age of 20, and thinking, “What happened to you?”

Why are you not married? Why are you not swallowed up in white and flowers and bridesmaids by now?

I have to be starkly honest:

Singleness has been the single hardest thing about living in the South.

It’s not the heat and it’s not the religion— it’s the pace in which life moves down here. If I was in New York City people would give me at least a few more years to be single and figure it out. In New York, we often pick career over spouse. We pay a ridiculous amount of rent for an incredibly small space. Dating apps are actually incredibly useful, not overly stigmatized. Life is a collection of Chinese takeout and conversations at 2am on someone’s rooftop where we keep plotting to “change the world.” 

In New York City, you explore a lot of religions. You meet a lot of opposition. You learn to be accepting and open and real. You mess up and you pair up and you break up and you grow up.

This isn’t a slam on geography or culture, it’s just my verbose & romanticized way of saying: some people think its incredibly tragic that I am 27 and still single.

And honestly? I finally think it’s beautiful.

It’s taken me nearly 7 years to finally be content with a naked left hand. I can tell you this though: at age 20, I made a sacrifice. I would make the same sacrifice at the age of 22 and 24 and 26— the choice to be alone and to be single instead of taken. The choice to invest everything I had— every hour I could— into the generation rising up.

To invest in a generation, you need to be willing to make sacrifice. It’s not like God came to me and was all like, “Boo, you have to be single (Paul-style) if you want me to give you big work to do.” Never. But I realized I only wanted a boyfriend to plug up some bottomless hole inside of myself. Just in the way you are not a lifeboat, someone else is not your hole-filler. Stop taking all the good job descriptions away from God.

I’m learning that the right person won’t make you want forfeit your whole being. The right person will make you want to grow into your whole being. The right person makes you want to fill up the space you once apologized for.

By the age of 24, I was the girl in the airports that old people pitied.

They thought if I was spending so much time in airports then there was no chance I could be in love and traveling and still be giving so much of my time to my work.

“There is no way you have time to be with someone,” they would say, looking at me with disdain. They probably wondered about those lonely, double-bed hotel rooms in Baltimore and Buffalo more than I did.

But by the age of 24, God was giving me everything I prayed for when I was 20. He had built my character, and my faith, and my capacity up until that point. He was handing me plane tickets, big stages, book deals, late night diner trips with strangers, and signings. More than anything– though I didn’t see it at first– he was handing me a chance to be with his people.

People always want to talk to me about the big crowds and the glamorous parts of traveling. These days I smile and say, “All of that matters until you meet a Sarah. It is lonely but it still matters until you meet a Sarah.

After you meet a Sarah, none of that “status stuff” matters any longer.”

I met Sarah at an awkward youth conference where I was speaking.

The kids didn’t really smell good. They had bad attitudes. I felt deflated on stage because that’s what teenagers can sometimes do unintentionally: make you feel like the least interesting creature to ever be placed under bright lights and given a microphone.

I came off the stage to find her waiting for me. Sarah, that is. Before I could even catch my breath to say anything to her, she was rattling off every shortcoming she could name: “I’m not good at this… and I hate myself for this… and one time I did this… and it made me feel this way… And I self-harmed last week… And sometimes I don’t think I even want to be here.”

She looked down a lot. She fidgeted with her hands. I think she was waiting for me to look in the other direction and walk away.

Instead, I grabbed her shoulders. I drew her in as close as I could. I whispered into her ear with the loudest whisper possible, “Sarah, you’re okay. Stop looking for a reason to not be okay. You got up today. You’re right here. You’re okay.”

Sarah broke instantly. She crumbled and was suddenly in my arms sobbing. I didn’t know what else to do but hold this stranger and rock with her for as long as she needed me to hold her and rock her. 

I don’t really know how long we rocked for. I lost track of time. In that moment, nothing was an accident. Not my singleness, not my geography. You learn really quickly that nothing is an accident when you just show up. 

And then came the broken hearts in New York City. The redemption stories in Cincinnati. The broken dishes in Los Angeles. The unrequited love tales in Seattle. The questions of identity in Boston. One girl in Minnesota cried as she told me that she finally discovered self-worth on a Fall day while wearing her favorite red sweater. The mother of a child who tragically passed away held my hands in Michigan and thanked me for the love letters we sent her in her time of grieving. A boy in Southern Alabama told me it was a letter from me— mailed back in 2010 at the height of my depression— that was one of three letters that would save his life.

At the age of 27, I have spoken in rooms with only 15 to arenas of over 20,000. I’ve been on over 100 stages. I have stayed after to talk with hundreds of college students. I have enough experience to confidently say this: we are all looking for the same thing today. We all want to belong. We all someone to see us. We are all so hopeful that our lives will not be an accident. We struggle with the fight that exists between God and culture.

Culture screams, “Be big! Be bright! Be front! Be center! Be the one on fire!”

God proclaims, “Be small. Be patient. Be humble. Find your place on the back-burner. Drop the mic, this isn’t about you.”

The things I worry about the most when it comes to my generation?

That we will somehow fall too in love with the glory that comes with being “liked” and “retweeted” and “shared.” My fear is that we love and hate ourselves too much, all at the same time. My fear is that we never learn to speak or find a voice because the culture is keeping us on some treasure hunt to find the Missing Pieces. The spouse. The house. The relationship. The child. The next step. The promotion. The job. The education. I could keep going.

My fear is we’re distracted. We are all just scrolling idly through the streams, hungering and searching for the Missing Pieces. We all miss chances when we are digging ourselves into the trenches of self-pity just because we think we should have found someone by now, lived somewhere different, accomplished more.

What if you are missing no pieces and you are simply missing people?

What if you are missing Sarah? What if you are too distracted to just see Sarah today? 

This I know: God doesn’t orchestrate accidents.

He isn’t looking at your life right now and thinking, “If you just tried harder, I would have moved more. If you hadn’t fallen for him or gone for her, I would have loved you more.” That’s not God, that’s simply the lies in your head that you so graciously bestowed with a microphone.

You don’t need a plane ticket to rescue a heart.

You don’t need be someone’s “person” to be complete.

You don’t need a house with a yard to prove you’re worthy of taking up space in this world.

The person with the home often wants the love.

The person with the love often wants to do the rescuing.

The person doing the rescuing often wants the home.

We all like greener grass. We all could have part-time jobs when it comes to worshipping the greener grass but God’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, regardless of our attitudes.

You could let him lead though. Open your hands. Take your foot off the brakes, or the gas, or wherever you’ve got it placed out of fear. You could learn contentment in the way you learn the details of a boy in a coffee shop. You could stop thinking about accidents so much— where you could have gone by now, who you could have met by now.

You could go your whole life convincing people that they, themselves, are not an accident.

Or you could do the work to see that you, yourself, are not an accident.

Your questions— not an accident.

Your geography— not accident.

Your darkness— not an accident.

Your pitfalls— not an accident.

Your relationship status— not an accident.

There is nothing accidental about the fact that you’re still here.

So come matter here. Please, come matter here.

There are Sarah’s who need you– they need you to pay attention long enough to see them just so you can tell them they’re okay too. We all need to know we are okay. We all need to hear the words, “Me too. I feel that way too.”

So please come here. Please drop your mic.

Drop the mic and go find Sarah instead. 

Tell her she’s okay. Just tell her she’s okay today. 

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39 thoughts on “Drop the mic & go find Sarah.

  1. Chen says:

    I just finished journalling about this very thing. This very thing. I’m terrified of being a nobody. Lol – I don’t think I’ve ever articulated that thought before. But you’re right – nothing about who or where I am is accidental. There is purpose and it’s intentional. I need to stop looking and start looking up and out. Thank you. Gosh – I pray I remember tomorrow. Xxx

  2. tyecewilkins737001320 says:

    The post I was going to publish tonight was aggressive and came from a place of mistrust.

    Then I read your post and decided to write about my mother instead. I wrote about how compassionate she has been and how much her love has been the bridge that carried me over. Your words brought me to a place of peace, love and understanding. You’ve heard that before. You will hear it again. You know that your words do that. But, I couldn’t let this day or this moment go by without thanking you for doing that for me.

    Xoxo, Tyece

  3. Your writing and voice and words are true and beautiful. What I’ve glimpsed of your story is so encouraging and a reminder to be faithful to where you are with what you have and God will use you more and more. Thank you.

  4. Mckennawhisler says:

    I’m just so grateful for you and the way you allow The Lord to use you and your words. seriously, He has used them to greatly impact and inspire me and so many others. keep on keepin on, my friend!

  5. Cassandra says:

    Oh Hannah, I dint think I’ve ever related to a post you’ve written more. I’m 21, I’ve been single my whole life and at this point I’d feel lucky to go on a date. I live in a house of 6 girls, all single. Some days it’s not so bad and other days my housemates have signed us up for dating websites where guys asked us to write them poems. Some days no one mentions it and other days it appears as if there is nothing better to talk about. Most days I can’t stand the over dramatic flair for being single and usually end up walking away. Being single in this day and age seems crazy (and may feel like it haha) but really it’s a great time to fully devote to knowing yourself and knowing God.
    I appreciate this post like no tomorrow. It’s just what a girl like me needs to read 🙂

  6. cieracypert says:

    wow. wow wow wow. Thank you HB. Holy cow this is amazing. It’s so important to keep fighting for the Sarah’s in our world.
    “please come matter here.” Thank you for reminding all of us that we matter. Thanks for pointing us to Jesus.

  7. Why is it so hard to get information from my head to stick to my heart? Maybe I just need more reminding of what’s true. Thanks for doing that, not just today but so often through what you write. I know my story’s not like yours and yours isn’t like somebody else’s, but the common threads are there and they are, as you say, what tie us close. You’re right, it’s not an accident, and I am grateful for here and now no matter what… and I’ll keep saying it till that’s true, too. Thank you. Jessica

  8. Yes and amen. This hit me in a place I didn’t know needed whapped upside the head with truth.
    “Nothing is an accident when you just show up.”
    I work with middle school youth in my church, not as much as some I know, but I show up and pour into these amazing kids and their sweet hearts and gain ample perspective in loving on them.
    Thank you for this post!

  9. McKenzie Erickson says:

    The difference between finding yourself into becoming is simple , rather than looking and saying who you want to be you become that person and start living everyday as the new you.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  10. Rykeda Butler says:

    Hannah! If you weren’t speaking directly to me than I don’t know who you were speaking to. Thank God for you and your words and what He has blessed you to do.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  11. This is BEAUTIFUL. I can very much relate, although my stage has never gotten anywhere near 20,000 (and that’s OK). There are tons of Sarahs (of both sexas) out there. Drop your mic and go find them, indeed.
    And the best times, the absolute very best, are often the ones you really don’t remember too much of, where we fidn ourselves in kairos time rather than chronos time. Those are the times, I think, when we are most in tune with God and just letting him love people through us, whatever form that takes- words, silence, or we can’t even remember. They usually involve hugs.

  12. Douglas says:

    I’ve always wanted to believe that none of this was an accident; it’s often been the hardest bit of faith to hold onto. But life has surprised me. People have surprised me, and reminded me that all this, even the darkness, is meant for something.
    Angels and strangers, hb. Angels and strangers.

  13. You are very correct. I hold firmly to the belief that there are no happy accidents. While we may not understand the reason for something it is occurring life is unfolding as it should.

  14. I cried when I first read this post. It was like you were speaking directly to me and making me feel the way that I am supposed to. It is amazing how much our words can affect someone else. I actually just wrote my own post where I am constantly referring to this post and how it reminded me that I can be enough and that I need to go out and find “my Sarah” for lack of a better word. Thank you for your words and for always sharing how you feel. Sometimes it is just what I need.
    http://jerseysfreespirit.blogspot.com/2015/07/learning-to-love-yourself.html

  15. Amanda says:

    Goodness woman, Jesus just wrecked me through your words. Thanks for letting him speak so clearly through you. As a single 25 year old lady I needed this today.

  16. Everything. Everything about this. The way you wrote it. The audience– (everyone!!!)

    It’s meant for everyone. How powerful. We can all relate to a Sarah and I can truly relate to you (on somewhat of a smaller scale for now). God is truly bringing my giftings into something so beautiful. Even if I stay right here on this platform- He is good. Connections. Passions. Uniqueness. All wrapped into one. Me. He made me just like Him and I’m so thankful.

    I have your book and I ran frantically to the store to find it. Someone had just snatched up the last one. Ugh. I was sad, but I found it online 🙂 God has not said, “Go. Read it.” .. Yet. But I know He will. Even if it’s just for the sake of me giving it away to a girl who needs it more than me.

    I love that you are so yourself. That you can confidently speak of your story and your current story and where you hope to go in the future.

    He’s got you; Daddy’s got you and won’t ever let go.

  17. Reblogged this on sogugu and commented:
    I finally got to talk to my girlfriend, Lily, after a long time. She left for Glasgow about a year ago and we haven’t spoken much since then. Until yesterday. We were on phone for about five hours.
    In our glorious reunion, our blogs came up and Lily suggested that we write letters to our younger selves and put them up as blog posts. Brilliant idea, I thought. Then I came across this post and realized how much I did not know I needed to have known when I was younger. The fact that the author of this post is twenty seven was of particular significance to me. I’m turning twenty seven on Tuesday.
    I still plan on putting something together and forging it into as candid a letter as I can write to my twenty year old self. Meanwhile, allow yourself to be inspired by this oh-so-lovely and oh-so-honest post.

  18. Dear Hannah,

    I am almost 32 and sometimes I feel I have been single forever. Coming from a different culture, society and country single hood is often treated like some sort of a curse in my part of the world. The white elephant in the room they never talk about. But it is always there. The older I am getting, the tougher it seems if I let it bother me as much.

    However a couple of weeks back I decided I am not going to live on this plane. I’ll live in my parallel universe where I am enough, where I am much more than ENOUGH for myself and those around me.

    I happen to be living in one of the most conservative societies in the world and sometimes it is so stifling that I cannot believe I willingly chose to come here and subject myself to these restrictions and expectations. But then I did. And like you said what if this is what was expected of me, this is my existence now and I cannot keep belittling every other good thing happening to me, the kindness around me, the times I actually feel I got lucky, solely only because one thing is missing in my life. I am definitely not an ACCIDENT! Thank you.

    Love,
    Priyanka

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  20. {I’ve printed this out and reread it three times over the past week.}
    I’m a 17-year-old-about-to-start-senior-year and the impending life ahead of me seems daunting, yet so exciting. Your post has put my desires in life into words. I don’t simply want to focus on a career, but I want to love on people. Thank you for inspiring me and reminding me of the path I want to take in life, HB.

    “Culture screams, “Be big! Be bright! Be front! Be center! Be the one on fire!”
    God proclaims, “Be small. Be patient. Be humble. Find your place on the back-burner. Drop the mic, this isn’t about you.” “

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  22. Reblogged this on fancifullove and commented:
    “I’m learning that the right person won’t make you want forfeit your whole being. The right person will make you want to grow into your whole being. The right person makes you want to fill up the space you once apologized for.”

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  24. Julia Sevier says:

    I am not very computer literate (I am in my 60s) but am moved by your love letters and have been trying to figure out how to enter someone that is in great need of love. My younger sister’s only daughter passed away unexpectedly and she is stuck and cannot move forward. Are you still sending letters?

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