Years ago, when my little sister and I were younger, one of our favorite things to do every August was hunker down on our living room couch, flip on the TV and watch the Miss Teen USA competition. Yes, we eagerly joined millions of other girls across the country watching these teen beauties parade themselves across the stage, in overly-sequensed, far-too-expensive-for-a-teenager dresses, answering life-altering questions like, “If you could create one thing to change the world, what would it be and why?”
My sister and I bonded over this yearly ritual and imagined what it would be like to grace the stage ourselves… so much so that my sister entered me into the contest. Yup. It’s true, I competed to be Miss Teen USA. It was mortifying and eye-opening to be sure. And after being in the contest myself, I’ve never watched it again. The glitz and glam I imagined it to be was replaced with firsthand knowledge that everything wasn’t peaches and sunshine with the beautiful girls behind the scenes. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of truly beautiful girls. Girls that, just by being themselves, made you want them for a best friend. They were legit AND externally beautiful. But there were also eating disorders, spray tans and diet pills being pushed. It made me so sad. I didn’t want to win. I just wanted to be me and eat a hamburger without wondering if I’d look too fat for the swimsuit competition.
But that’s all beside the point.
One of the questions we were each asked during our interviews all those years ago was, “If there was one thing you could change about your life thus far, what would it be and why?”
Well, every good pageant princess knows that you’re supposed to answer that question like this:
“Honestly, I wouldn’t change ONE SINGLE THING about my life and history because everything I’ve experienced has made me who I am today.” (insert bright white smile and a dimple here).
What a crock.
Maybe it’s because I’m now a full 20 years older and have lived more of a life; or maybe it’s because I am seeing the longterm results of choices I’ve made… or maybe I’m now just being honest with myself (finally)… but if I could go back in time and have a “do-over”, I totally would. A lot.
I would step outside of my comfort zone and be a friend to the girl who didn’t have any, even if my “friends” teased me for it.
I would have slapped the boy who tried to make me go farther than I wanted to go (*note: tried… I got out of it, but he should’ve been slapped and met my dad).
I would’ve stood my ground and told my boss “no” when I was asked to do something I didn’t agree with at work.
I would’ve advocated better for my child who struggled so much.
Did those things contribute to “who I am” today? Definitely. But I would still want to change how I handled them. If I could go back, I would’ve been more courageous and stood up for my friend. Realized my worth was more than the status of the boy I dated. Held my ground with what was morally correct at work. Gone with my gut instincts and pressed the doctor for more tests. I would have been less concerned with being judged by others and more concerned for myself, my values and my family. Because isn’t that what we do?
But oftentimes we are afraid. We want to take a stand but instead of being praised, we’re given consequences. We are reprimanded; judged; called names.
When I was asked that question by that judge 20 years ago I was afraid.
I was afraid that if I didn’t answer it correctly I wouldn’t be perceived as the girl who had it all together, who could represent the country’s teens with dignity and grace (the latter of which I lacked immensely anyway). So I lied. I gave the judge the answer he wanted… and lost.
I wonder what would’ve happened if I said I DID want a do-over? Would my going against the grain have earned points in his book? Ultimately it doesn’t matter because I’m here now and none worse for the wear… probably even better off because of it.
In life, we rarely get do-overs, but we DO get a fresh start every day.
Every day when I wake up I get a choice: will I be true to who I am or will I be bullied by and succumb to the pressures of this world?
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of wanting do-overs; of going to bed at night and wishing I had handled something differently. I want to lay my head on my pillow and know I lived that day in such a way that I stayed true to myself and true to my God.
Today I’m trying something new. Instead of calling “Do-over!” at the end of the day I’m going to try to do it right the first time. I will make mistakes and fail to live up to this expectation of myself, but God has given me (and you) GRACE for that AND for all the screw-ups I’ve made in the past. I don’t have to work or try or do anything to earn His kind favor. It’s free and mine for the taking. So on those days when I want to scream “DO-OVER!!!” from the top of my lungs, I’m instead going to bow my head and say “thank you” for His grace. Because in reality, His grace is ENOUGH. No do-overs needed.
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
–2 Corinthians 12:9