Please welcome Joyfully Ever After’s first regular contributor, Emilee Hackney!
This is Emilee’s blogging debut! She has such a sweet spirit, and we can learn so much from her.
You can expect to see her posts every other Wednesday. Enjoy!
We watched the ominous cloud coming over the mountain in a gray mist, and as the wind picked up, so did our nerves. Austin, who anxiously stood in front of me, turned, and the tassel on his cap swung with the wind. “It’s going to rain!” he exclaimed. All 117 of my other fellow graduates, who were also becoming slightly frantic, proclaimed the impending storm as we took our seats on the football field in the presence of a packed stadium and cloudy skies.
Speak life, Emilee!
“Of course it’s not going to rain! It’s NOT going to rain.” I said confidently.
I imagined the storm instantly dissipating and the skies clearing, which did not happen (Okay, I didn’t honestly believe it would, but it was worth a try, anyway). Please don’t let it rain! I prayed urgently.
Our administration evidently had no faith in the weather either, so after a rushed greeting and introduction, our salutatorian took the stage. We could smell the rain coming. As Paul began to speak, a few sprinkles started to fall, and umbrellas popped up in the stands.
“I knew it would rain!”
“I told you it was coming!”
“This was a bad idea!”
My fellow graduates started whispering as the drizzle slowly fell. Paul, who had started to recite a nice little poem about our school years, was losing the attention of the audience. A few umbrella-less people in the stadium got up to find shelter.
Then, less than thirty seconds later, the floodgates of heaven opened wide upon Tazewell High School’s Class of 2015. The torrential storm and subsequent screams of horror drowned out the rest of poor Paul’s poem. He ran off the stage as I ran up, and upon observing my audience and fellow graduates, I realized absolutely zero people were going to pay attention to a single thing I had to say.
I looked at the laminated speech, covered in water droplets, and realized my hair was getting heavy from water (This was not a regular storm. This was a STORM). I looked at my principal desperately as people continued shouting and the rain continued to roar.
“Go ahead. It’s your speech,” he said, looking like he’d just stepped out of a swimming pool.
So what did I do?
I started from the very beginning.
I read my speech, MY valedictorian speech, that I’d been writing in my head for years. YEARS, y’all. I had stayed up past one in the morning just rereading and cutting and pasting and editing and adding and deleting to be absolutely one-hundred-percent sure that each and every word was perfect. I was going to talk about my faith, about Jesus, because I’m lucky enough to live in a little Bible Belt town that still allows that kind of thing, and I was going to use my one and only opportunity to address my entire class and a full football stadium as a platform to spread the Good News. Yet I had barely even finished with the thank-yous before the entire sound system drowned and died.
“Hurry up, Emilee!” someone shouted. I DID hear that, thanks. I was slightly shocked that my precious speech had been cut short, and after almost electrocuting myself by touching the microphone–smart idea, right?–, I was quickly ushered back to my seat.
At that point, it barely even mattered that the rain was still coming in ten-gallon buckets, since we were all soaked to the core. Puddles of water were collecting in our seats under our bottoms and our cardboard caps were slowly melting and drooping with the weight of water. In the best decision made that night, my principal decided to skip all other activities and herd us across stage, one immediately after the next, for our diplomas. Because the area surrounding the plywood stage had become a giant pit of watery mud, I took off my white shoes and graduated barefoot.
Less than ten minutes later, the rain stopped and the sun came out.
The perfect graduation night I’d envisioned since my first day of high school was ruined. I was expecting a beautiful red sunset and a warm breeze to blow across the field as I spoke; I had imagined my speech inspiring tears and touching souls and moving lives (I’m definitely a romantic). I had PLANS! I’d planned the evening perfectly in my head for years, and I was so disappointed that God had allowed it to rain. I prayed so hard, I thought, bitterly lamenting the soaking wet end to my perfect plans. What did you do that for?
Not too long later, I was reading in James as part of my nightly bible study. In chapter 4 verses 13 through 15 stuck out to me in light of recently failed graduation:
“Some of you say, ‘“Today or tomorrow we will go to some city. We will stay there a year, do business, and make money.” But you do not know what will happen tomorrow! Your life is like a mist. You can see it for a short time, but then it goes away. So you should say, “If the Lord wants, we will live and do this or that.”’
A thought came to me: God’s plans are not the same as ours. His way is far superior to our way, and it’s his will that we should always allow to prevail. Yes, I prayed about writing my speech, and I wrote about the topic he led me to. But it wasn’t his plan for me to deliver it that night. Perhaps my own secret hope of glorifying myself was the reason God decided to cut down my pride with the rainstorm, and I think that’s something to be grateful for. Hebrews 12:6 says,
“My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing,
and don’t stop trying when he corrects you.
The Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as his child.”
And as I read those verses, I had a sudden peace about his plan for the night overcoming my own. I got to give the speech two days later at our graduation “redo,” and I know that he wanted me to speak on that night, not the first graduation. The second time around, I had his correction in mind. I delivered my speech for God’s glory, not my own. I’d accepted that God changed my plans up as a way to teach and correct me. It made me think about the many other times things hadn’t gone according to my own plans, which I now realize was probably a very good thing! After all,
“People may make plans in their minds,
but the Lord decides what they will do.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Thank God for his mercy on us humans. We think we have it all together and we think we know what’s best for ourselves, but that’s rarely the case. As frustrating as ruined plans are, God has something even better in store for us! And besides, when things don’t go our way, it’s usually not ALL that bad–a beautiful rainbow came out from behind the clouds and stretched across the sky as the rain cleared that evening. It was a promise straight from God, and I imagined him laughing in heaven.
“Just trust me,” the rainbow seemed to say.
“I know what I’m doing.”
Emilee Hackney is a recent high school graduate living in Tazewell, VA. She is preparing to attend a local college in the fall where she hopes to hone in her writing skills. She currently works at Subway, and enjoys spending time with her boyfriend of three years.