Growing up, I was always fascinated with the idea of being “special.”
Someone who’s chosen and loved.
I also had this secret fantasy (often replayed in my head when I played dress-up with my little sister) that one day, a young and handsome prince would come and sweep me off my feet, making me his princess.
I’d wear the sparkling crown and the beautiful dresses, and I’d be just as graceful as any of the Disney characters.
Somewhere in my head, though, I would hear a voice say I wasn’t special enough to be a princess. I wasn’t pretty enough, or smart enough, or hardworking enough.
I was Sam Rogers, inadequate and average.
Meanwhile, I grew up in the Catholic faith, where I taught Sunday School all throughout high school. Being with these kids and sharing the miracle of who Jesus is and what He did for us was amazing.
And though I spoke to these kids about the importance of praying and talking to God, I rarely practiced this myself.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I just didn’t know what to say or how to get started.
I didn’t even think having a personal relationship with Jesus was possible, let alone encouraged.
So, late one night, I decided to give prayer a try.
As I stared up at my frothy, white canopy, I was met with silence (or so I thought at the time).
The next few weeks, I waited anxiously for my prayer to come true. After about a month or so, I figured that it (whatever it was) probably wasn’t going to happen.
At first, I was mad. Then, another thought hit. Or, rather, resurfaced.
I wasn’t good enough. That was it.
Which only meant one thing: I had to prove myself.
So, from that day on, I spent the next 13-ish years trying to do just that.
I began with school.
Surely, if I could bring my grades up/be a member of the Principal’s List/basically become the perfect model student, God would deem me worthy enough of His love and attention.
It was worth a shot anyway.
Beginning in elementary school through senior year of high school, I received all As (with the exception of one B in my 6th grade history class).
I also got super involved and joined lots of different clubs. Beta Club, National Honor Society, the school newspaper, chamber orchestra, Spanish Club, you name it.
At the same time, criticism was devastating for me. Even the constructive kind. A semi-negative comment from a teacher on one of my papers, or a sideways glance from a classmate could (and did) send me spiraling into a depression-like state.
So, I decided to work even harder.
All the while, I was working toward the pinnacle of my pre-college career: getting accepted into the Governor’s Scholars Program (also known as “GSP”).
After all, only the “best and the brightest” were chosen for this program.
I slaved over that application for months. And I was accepted.
Except… nothing really changed. I didn’t feel any different.
Much to my dismay, I was the same Sam as I had been before opening the envelope.
After completing the program (which was the most amazing six weeks of my life as well as an integral part of God’s plan for me), I set my sights on the Singletary Scholarship at the University of Kentucky.
I applied for the scholarship and was chosen as a finalist.
A few weeks later, I walked into my interview with a huge smile on my face, only to have my mind go completely and utterly blank. I panicked.
And it was by far the very worst interview I’ve ever had.
I got the rejection letter in the mail a month later.
I’m not entirely sure I have words to describe the devastation I felt that day. It was like I was empty. Drained.
Which also meant I had to figure out a new approach in order to prove myself.
It was about this time I changed my major from Biology, Pre-Med to Journalism and English (to be continued a few paragraphs down).
I recovered from the shame (or so I thought) and went on to attend UK in the fall, where I signed up to participate in Sorority Recruitment.
“I’ll make something of myself this way,” I remember thinking.
I completed the week to find my forever home in Alpha Omicron Pi. To this day, it’s been one of the greatest blessings Jesus has ever given me, though I didn’t know that at the time.
After initiating, I got busy.
I ran for several positions those first two years. I grew in self-confidence and also loved serving my chapter in these roles.
Then, I decided to run for president the fall semester of my junior year.
I didn’t get it.
And that’s when the spiral began.
Two months later, I received my first failing grade ever.
A month after that, my parents filed for divorce.
It seemed that no matter what I did, I just wasn’t (and couldn’t ever be) good enough.
That November was also the first time one of my littles had been able to convince me to go to Synergy, UK’s Christian Student Fellowship’s weekly Thursday night service.
I remember thinking that “a little Jesus couldn’t hurt.”
An hour later, I walked into a room of college students worshipping with their hands lifted high.
I was more than a little surprised. After all, I’d never seen anyone smile while singing church songs before.
It got me thinking, but once I got home, I crawled right back in bed.
That spring semester, I didn’t leave my room much. I slept a lot and avoided everyone and everything. It was easier that way.
In February, I had another opportunity to run for president of my sorority. I wasn’t elected that time either.
That’s when I cracked.
But, Jesus always shows up. And this was, I would soon find out, my moment of salvation.
A few weeks later, I was working on homework with one of my littles, when she spoke the Good News over me: that I was loved by an all-knowing, all-creating God, who wanted nothing more than for me to know Him. That my achievements (and likewise, my failures) didn’t matter.
I was Sam, a child of God. And, nothing I did or didn’t do was ever going to change that.
The truth hit me and actually began to sink in.
I’d “failed” to “prove myself” in so many different ways over the course of so many years, but He still loved and knew me anyway?
My mind was blown.
In that moment, it was as if a weight had been lifted. And a peace unlike any other settled in.
At first, I thought it was just contentment (God had accepted me for me), but little did I know, I had actually let Jesus into my life and into my heart.
When I fell asleep a little later, I received my first dream from Jesus. Not to go into too many specifics, but I can still see and hear everything as clearly as I did that night.
I was washed clean. Known and clearly loved. I belonged to a supernatural father who desperately wanted a relationship with me. I had a God-given purpose, a unique role He had designed just for me in His kingdom here on Earth. And I didn’t have to do any of it alone.
I woke up the next morning with my eyes wide open (both literally and figuratively).
That summer, I began delving more into the Word of God (which began with buying my first Bible) and learning more about the supernatural (I had dozens of dreams, all with personal messages from Jesus).
In the fall, I returned to UK filled with a renewed strength.
It was a tough semester, though. I could just feel a spirit of busyness trying to separate me from the Father.
There were a lot of tears those few months, but Jesus never fails to use all things for good.
I got to know Him a lot better that fall semester. And I began to see myself as a beloved daughter of God, which completely rocked my world.
This was my identity. I was His.
In the spring, with Jesus’ help, I accepted an internship at CSF, a position God had called me to some months before.
Following the testing in the fall, this season was one of reflection for me. I’d begun to consider my future career(s), and prepared to apply for jobs post-graduation.
Though I had the short-term plan figured out (I was going to go on staff at CSF in the fall where I’d be able to minister to college students), I wasn’t sure career-wise.
I couldn’t see myself working for any of the media outlets I’d interned for, and my journalism classes just weren’t as appealing as they once had been.
I had no idea what I was going to do.
So, I prayed and asked Jesus what He had planned for my life.
Leading up to this moment, several people had prayed for me since the beginning of that year, each speaking over my future.
One person told me that God was going to make a dream I’d had long ago (but didn’t think I could actually accomplish) come true. Another mentioned that I was going to work with kids. As a journalism major, you could say I was a little confused.
After lots of prayer and several dreams later, I realized what He’d been trying to tell me.
God wanted me to go to medical school.
It turns out, Jesus had planned for me to be a Biology major with a Pre-Med track all along.
In fact, I would’ve been a student in these programs from the beginning, had I not gotten scared of the Calculus classes required for the major (math is definitely not my best subject).
But, it had been my dream since I was eight years old to be a doctor. At first, I hoped to be an obstetrician. Later, to be a neonatologist, where I would work with premature babies.
Looking back, I can also see where Jesus had been pointing me toward medicine all along (I briefly considered taking the MCAT my junior year, just to see what kind of score I would’ve gotten,).
This was the role He’d designed for me.
All the while, I was reading more in the Bible, praying a ton and standing up for the Greek community (this last one was an exercise from Jesus in being uncomfortable, yet obedient).
With everything seemingly figured out (I was so relieved), I graduated from UK with Honors this past May and looked forward to beginning my job at CSF in the summer.
Everything took a turn, however, when I received a call from the director of CSF saying that I would not be allowed to go on staff for the next year.
In that moment, my world seemed to stop.
I hadn’t thought in a long time that I had the ability to disappoint God. But, in that moment, I felt like the biggest failure He’d ever created.
I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do.
I felt so lost and trapped.
In prayer, Jesus promised everything would work out (that it was all according to His plan for me), but I wasn’t so sure.
That first month, I alternated between applying for dozens of jobs in one sitting to panicking about how I was going to make ends meet.
I cried. A lot. And I slept more than I should’ve.
But, as I was praying one night in July, Jesus likened this season to a “training session.”
He was ushering in a new season of my life. One in which I’d have to learn to wholly and irrevocably trust Him to make a way for me.
I also realized that there was a difference between wallowing and waiting, and while I was waiting, God had a few things He wanted to say.
In the past two months or so, He’s been building me up, teaching me a lot (a lot of emphasis on embodying both the lion and the lamb) and preparing me for the road ahead.
Big things are coming. I can feel it.
And even though it took me more than 10 years to realize it, I have a God-given purpose, a meaning to my life and a future that is greater than anything I could’ve imagined or planned.
My God is the very best friend, mentor, confidant, shoulder to cry on and good, good father.
He has and always will be with me every step of the way.
It also turns out, there’s nothing average or inadequate about me.
I’m free from the search of my identity in the eyes of man and the world. Instead, I’ve found all I’ve ever needed in Jesus.
I am Sam Rogers, daughter of the one, true King. An heir to his kingdom. A princess.
I guess my fantasy as a little girl wasn’t so far off after all.