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How a high school class she wasn’t supposed to take launched Dajae Williams into NASA: Who defines your limits?

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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A rocket takes off
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Dajae Williams is a quality control engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and helped set in place the necessary pieces for the Sentinel-6 spacecraft that launched on November 21, 2020. But working on rockets was the furthest thing from her mind when a teacher inadvertently placed her in an honors geometry class when Williams was a high school freshman.

A desegregation program in her area placed her in a new school as a child, and the shift “was initially challenging for Williams, who struggled to adapt.” 

With the help of teachers and her mother, though, she eventually turned a corner, and, in many ways, that geometry class represents one of her journey’s most lasting lessons: “Put yourself out there. Apply for things that you don’t think you qualify for. Take classes that you don’t think you’re smart enough for. It will take you further than you realize.” 

In addition to working for NASA, Williams also makes it a point to use music to help inspire a new generation of kids to pursue fields that may seem out of reach and to push themselves beyond their self-conceived limits. Her hope is that, in so doing, they will not settle for a lesser life simply because it seems easier or expected. 

Who defines your limits?

One of the greatest struggles Jesus had with his disciples throughout the Gospels was getting them to see the world through his eyes. 

For three years, they shared life together, and for three years he tried to help them understand. Sometimes they got the message and thrived, but far more often they were left confused because the lessons Christ taught didn’t seem to match up with the life they’d come to know and expect. 

In one such example, Jesus attempted to help them understand a bit more about who he was and the life he came to offer them. He told them a parable in which he was the Good Shepherd who watched over his flock. The story concluded with the statement that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

A lot of books have been written and sermons preached attempting to outline what that abundant life looks like. And while some get it more right than others—to be clear, it is not a promise of financial wealth or personal success—Christ’s message ultimately comes down to the idea that we will only experience the abundance he came to offer when we allow him to be the one who defines the parameters and goals of our lives. 

Like Dajae Williams, we must be willing to push ourselves beyond the bounds of what looks easy or expected to pursue our true calling. And if we let God guide that process then, while there will still be inevitable bumps in the road, every day can be abundant regardless of how abundant the end goal may appear to those on the outside. 

So take a moment today and ask God to make clear who is defining the limits you’ve come to accept in your life. 

And know that if it’s anyone but him, then you’re missing out on at least part of the life that our Good Shepherd longs to give you. 

Let’s not make that mistake today.