I want to share something with you that really touched and inspired me.
Here it is: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”
Sure, it’s not perfect grammar, but it gets the point across. And when it comes to rising above low expectations, there are few concepts that are more important.
Let me put it another way: If you live like a normal teenager, you’re going to get normal results. Being different is the result of making different choices — sometimes radical ones.
I want to tell you a story of what that can look like.
Riley Banks was a normal 13-year-old from Branson, Missouri. She loved God, friends, and volleyball. And she was very shy.
At this point in her life there was nothing to make Riley stand out in a crowd. She was just another girl heading down the default path society lays out for teenagers.
Then one day her aunt and uncle invited her to visit them in Kenya. He was a doctor and was spending six months in East Africa as part of a medical missions trip.
Now, Riley had never really had a heart for missions. But this invitation was enticing. It was a scary but exciting chance to break out from normal.
So she took it.
She even gave up Christmas and birthday presents so her parents could afford two plane tickets to Kenya — one for her and one for her dad.
A few months later, their airplane was landing in Nairobi, Kenya.
Riley had done it.
She had broken the script. Thirteen-year-olds weren’t supposed to be in Kenya on missions trips. But there she was. She was being different.
Over the next two weeks, however, Riley repeatedly felt in way over her head.
During a visit to Tenwek Hospital she cleaned excrement off babies crammed three-to-a-crib and fed them from a medicine cup because there were no bottles.
Overwhelmed by the situation, Riley walked out of the baby room and passed out.
So much for teenagers being capable, right?
Riley allowed the suffering she saw to change her. And when she felt God tugging on her heart to do something about it — she said yes.
At age 14 she went back to Kenya with 200 backpacks filled with school supplies and Bibles that she had spent the entire year gathering.
At age 15 she brought 200 hygiene kits for young girls, 200 more backpacks, and hosted a medical clinic that served 1,300 people.
At age 16 she brought 1,000 hygiene kits, 200 backpacks, put on a VBS for 200 children, and opened a school, called Pamoja, serving 50 students.
At age 17 her dreams required a bigger budget, so she opened a thrift shop called Riley’s Treasures in her hometown. The business sees over 29,000 customers per year and all the profits go to Kenya.
Now Riley is 18 and just getting started. She will soon buy land in Kibwezi, so she can build a five-acre school complex — her biggest project yet.
And as I type this email, Riley is considering a six-figure offer from a major Christian book publisher to publish her memoir.
According to Psychology Today’s “roadmap of adolescence” 18-year-old Riley should be experiencing “low self-esteem from being unable to meet the demands of adult responsibility, as well as increased anxiety from not having clear direction in life or the self-discipline to consistently pursue it.”
But she’s not. She’s thriving.
And she’s thriving because when God called her off the default path, the well-worn, easy path, the path everyone else was taking — she said yes.
Here’s how Riley puts it:
“God doesn’t call the bravest, the strongest, or the smartest, but when He calls and we respond with simple child-like faith, amazing things can happen.”
I don’t know what that different path will look like for you — what unique and special thing God might call you to do — but I do know one thing:
It won’t look like what everyone else is doing.
There are a select few in every generation who can achieve extraordinary results by taking the ordinary path. Maybe you are one of them.
But if you are like Alex, Riley, and me, you’ll need to chart a different course.
That is the path of doing hard things, stepping outside your comfort zone in obedience to Christ, and rebelling against low expectations for His glory.
So keep going. Don’t give up. Stay faithful.
There is a reward for hard work, for being different. And it could be more amazing than you ever imagined.
May the Lord be with you!
An article written by Brett Harris.