Tsunami waves are usually caused by something deep within the ocean floor. Normal waves are always in constant motion. With one foamy crash on sand and a gentle pull back into the deeper abyss, the process repeats daily with the rise and fall of the tide with a steadfast capacity I find alluring. In my life, I’ve always recognized the waves, but I never expected to experience the tsunami that came through recently, rendering every single thought pattern that has kept my thoughts captive for years.
The Lord uses people as vessels in my life. I know He uses all things, but His primary vessel of working has always come from the people He puts in my path to challenge, love, and meet me exactly where I’m at on my journey. Ever since I’ve been little, I’ve observed people. I’ve always understood the type of aura and energy they carry, and have been largely impacted by people with high influence that have taken an interest in getting to know me without a hidden agenda. In the past, I’ve never understood how people of such high influence could take notice of me, but the realization why struck me like a chord being played recently.
Everyone carries a light within them that’s special. Whether or not we decide to do anything with this light has largely to do with upbringing and how we grow up. In recent years, however, I have learned the truth that we are all capable of reconstructing our captive thoughts in prayer and changing them despite the circumstances that were handed to us beyond our control. I believe that influence comes as we learn to live inside it in far deeper ways, because the recognition of our own spear of influence is ultimately what brings freedom. When we learn to walk in that freedom, there is a greater responsibility to let others know that it’s possible to carry that freedom and light inside them as well.
In recent years, this realization has been like the changing tides and waves in my own life. It’s come in and out like a spark that has flickered, but never been strong enough to hold true. I’ve always known I’m different and special, but walking in that confidence fully has been a whole different journey. When I started listening to the whisper that had been there all along, I was in college, maybe my junior year. A friend of mine took notice of me, always investing despite my mindsets and warped confidence in my own abilities. I looked at this friend and immediately knew she was special. This friendship had been God-ordained since day one. I now see how God used her in my life at the time to show me how special and unique I am, too.
The second time I heard the whisper like a wave was in the middle of a hard season during my time abroad. It was one of our last nights in Thailand and I had been upset about something. My squad leader took notice of me and sat with me while I cried. We chose to sit on a local park bench lit by a store light, and as I cried, she told me that I was still beautiful. In the middle of my tears, my entire squad ended up walking the long way home and I felt embarrassed, but my friend reminded me that it was probably God’s way of showing me that I am seen, loved, and still special even when I am running through a terribly hard season.
The whisper came yet again when I was sampling tea a while back. A guy who I had attended high school with walked by with a baby in his arms. He sampled a tea and said hello to me by name. I had zero recollection of his name, but I knew his face was familiar. We caught up briefly before he had to catch up with his wife, who was holding a stroller and had gone to high school with us, too. Despite my bad memory, I still walked home from work that night feeling like God was trying to reveal something to me about who I am in all of these rare occurrences where people remember who I am or take notice.
In recent months, I’ve connected with point-people in my church community. One in particular is someone who reminds me a lot of my friend from college. She decided that she wanted to work with me on sharing my story in a way that’s relatable and challenging to other people. She’s someone who I immediately took notice of because of her solid and steadfast mind and spirit. Once again, I walked away from our first meeting feeling like God was trying to reveal something to me, but I just couldn’t figure it out, because I couldn’t see it in myself personally.
Something began to click a couple weeks ago when an acquaintance from church told me “well, you’re different, you can hold your own in new situations.” When I asked her to further explain what she meant, she went on to say “it’s this thing about you, you know who you are and what your limitations are… It’s this steadiness, joy, and being able to connect with other people and even God so seamlessly…” This was something I had never known other people saw in me, so it began to open my eyes to the possibility that maybe I am special, maybe I am different, and maybe I do hold this light about me that I’ve only ever been able to see in other people that I’ve observed, watched, been friends with, and found help from over the years.
I recently attended Soulfest at Gunstock Mountain Resort and the final wave of realization came when a man walked inside of our church’s prayer tent, sat inside my group, immediately looked up and asked if he knew me, calling me by name a couple minutes later. We had worked together at a camp a few years ago. Once again, I knew his face looked familiar, but his name was lost by me. Eventually the memory came flooding back and I remembered, but I still walked out of the tent asking God “how is it that all of these people remember me?”
The following night, I found myself sitting at the charging station while a friend went to buy ice cream. Three or four years prior to that moment, sitting alone with no one to talk to would have driven me up a wall with my mind spinning, but I began to realize how okay I was sitting there on my own. I recalled the people I had seen and known in my life as I waited for my friend, and like a tsunami, the truth hit my heart as I finally let it inside: Ashley, my beloved, it’s because you’re special, too. The light you see inside all the people of influence in your life is something I have given to you as a gift. I am using all your bumps and cracks to create light and your spear of influence for My Kingdom is and will be so much larger than you can see or fathom right now.
It was clear as day, like the calm after a deep, dark, and long storm. That despite all my human brokenness, God is using me and will use me in a unique way like He’s used every person of influence in my own life. He’s chosen me to be a special vessel for His glory to shine brighter.
This knowledge allows me to stand taller, but it also makes me want to share it with people who need to hear it. I believe that every single one of us holds a tsunami of influence. Some influencers have microphones, some have instruments and voices. Some influencers have pens and books or blogs and Instagram postings. Some are leaders at work, in church, or in other countries. Most influencers, however, are the people who don’t even know that they are one, yet still walk in a way that’s like a child playing in the sand, unaware of how they are influencing the very atmosphere around them.
I believe we all have the courage and capacity to influence in a positive manner, but it takes a tsunami of awareness and recognition in our personal and spiritual lives to make it happen. Only God gives that recognition as we are obedient to where He would have us. Are you willing to step out as God has called you in order to be that soaking wave and flood of influence?
It’s within you, it’s within all of us.