Originally published Friday, 17 July 2020.
Graduates of 2020 will never forget the unexpected circumstances that shifted their expectations for what finishing one chapter of life and beginning another would look like. For many, it became impossible to walk across the stage, shake hands, and receive the paper proof that they did indeed finish. Still, graduates around the world are stepping out into a world full of questions those of us who’ve walked the stage are familiar with.
What is next? Who do I want to become? This road… or that?
My life post-high school felt like it sent me through loops of exhilaration and anxiety and back again. The roller coaster of early adulthood can be filled with faith defining moments. Faced with decisions that set the course for the rest of their lives, each person must decide not only what they say they believe but also, how they are going to move forward in life.
Until graduation, you simply were promoted to the next grade, with only a few decisions of what classes to take or what interests to follow. Now there is a buffet of choices. I was committed to following Jesus, but what did that mean in my practical life when deciding between majors. How could I discern which city to live in? Which internship to pursue? Whether or not to go on a second date?
I wish that someone had told me that I wasn’t going to miss ‘the plan’ by some strange misstep.
As a 19-year-old, I switched from elementary education to a linguistics major. I was headed towards the remote jungle to translate the Bible and teach people to read their newly written language. That is, until I took Greek (it was hard) and became overwhelmed with the schedule and cost to pursue this noble cause. My anxiety pushed onto my every nerve.
I treated early college like it was a final exam that I had to get the right answers to without a chance to study the material. There I was, trying to decipher exactly which steps to take, sifting every decision through criteria I was unsure of. Each change in course felt intimidating. I remember being aware of the truth that God is sovereign and that he knew the plan he had for my life, but how could I know “the plan”?
A friend wisely told me that God wanted me to follow him even more than I wanted to follow him. This wasn’t some elaborate trick, or a test I must pass. Seeking him was all I needed, and the rest would follow.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
The Kingdom of God that we seek, means the reign and rule of Christ in our daily lives, which can happen in any profession.
I wish I knew to expect the wilderness rather than look for the direct route.
Like the Israelites in the wilderness, sometimes God does not lead us by the straight path. He more often takes people through the winding wilderness as he builds them into the person they are to become. Next time you read a well- known story in the Bible, resist moving quickly to the conclusion and sit for a moment on the tension of their waiting time. Moses was a shepherd for years so was King David. Joseph was a slave and a prisoner. Sarah was 90 before her son was born. Why do we expect that our lives will not include the same tensions—the same wait?
Along the way of the wilderness many find their life’s purpose but also God’s purposes in the world around them. I changed my major three times, and every single time it was God-led and there were things I learned and people I met that I needed in my life. Now, I don’t even work in the field that I studied, but God has not wasted anything that has built me into the person I am. Little did I know, that the purposes of that time in my life went far beyond my vocation.
But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
Psalms 78:52 NIV
We must seek God in the midst of our circumstances, not seek the answer to our next step. It is ok to be on the winding path as we wait with Jesus. We just need to be open to wherever he may lead us.
Holly Hawes writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption. She is 30-something and has been married to Josh since 2010. She is Mom to a teenager by adoption, a child she’ll meet in heaven, and often “bonus kids” via foster care. She loves creativity, the PNW, books, flowers, and sharing Jesus with hearts that need him