Originally published Thursday, 06 September 2018.
Lazy days of summer are quickly moving towards the inevitable first days of school. The countdown is on as the last “first day of high school” approaches for my daughter.
Like most mamas with a child ready to fly out into the world, this has me reeling. We all know the time goes too fast, but this day has come so quickly. I became a mom for the first time only five years ago. My daughter was 12 when she walked through our door, and in so many ways we are still figuring each other out.
Just like any other life transition, people are captivated by the “next step” questions. Everywhere we go, someone will ask, “What do you plan to do next year? Are you going to college? What do you want to do?” Even though I am well aware that few of the 17-year-olds eating popcorn on my couch have that figured out, I find myself mindlessly asking the same question.
So, to the brand new seniors, preparing to explore all the options, leaving the familiar behind, and desperate to find their path in life, my prayer for you this year is that you will be able to relax into your true identity rather than trying to mold your identity around some future vocation or goal.
If you remember these hard-learned truths they will help you along your way.
God will direct your steps one at a time. It is ok to course correct.
I can remember being so afraid of making the wrong decision, choosing the wrong college, choosing the wrong major, or dating the wrong guy. The list of choices to be made in your late teens and early twenties is endless. Somehow, I had gotten stuck in a fatalistic viewpoint that the oft-quoted Jer 29:11 meant that there was ONE plan and I had to figure it out. But when read in context of the whole Bible I noticed that sometimes God lets us wander a bit before providing the perfect next steps. I have been captivated by the story of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt through the miraculous provision of dry land at the bottom of the Red Sea as recorded in the book of Exodus.
” …God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near….But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea…” Exodus 13:17-18 (abbreviated)
Sometimes the “near” way, the way that “makes sense” is in opposition to the leading that comes from God. This is your chance to pray, test your choices by the word of God, and search out wise spiritual mentors. But know that it is ok to course correct. Whether you try a career that isn’t your favorite six months later, or you find yourself far off track, God never stops leading and loving his children.
You are not what you do, but you will be known for what you do.
The great lie you will fight in your college years is that your identity comes from what you do. We think of people by their roles. The Doctor. The Mechanic. The Mom. The Librarian.
You may be known for what you do vocationally. But more than that you will be known by whose you are. Jesus gives us the great freedom to be completely at rest, because we have nothing to prove. He already loves you enough to go to the cross for you. You don’t have to do anything or become someone important. You are already secure, loved, and important.
As you are making new friends, you will tend to drift into groups who are into the same things. But the most important parts of these relationships boil down to the fruits of the spirit being (Galatians 6) shown in your love (1 Corinthians 13). How you love a friend when they’ve had a bad day. If you are kind even when it is inconvenient.
You don’t need to be an expert to learn. No experience is wasted.
Right now, you are the oldest students at your school. The best at what you do. For years your teachers have passed out awards for excellence in various fields. You are about the enter a world of billions of people. It can be hard to stop learning for the outside applause or the competitive edge rather than because learning and growing as a person is a constant journey.
So, just try lots of things. This is your chance to see if you come alive creating art, studying abroad, or managing people. Take a cooking class, self-defense, or a course in medieval literature. You don’t have to be good at something right away. There will be lots of things you try that will be a funny story someday and some you will love. Summer jobs you find could last just a few months, or you could find a new passion you never dreamed of.
Someone once told me that “God packs your bags.” Over and over I have realized that the surprising moments of clarity or purpose God brought me to was informed and equipped through the very things that seemed “random” earlier on. Good and bad experiences are somehow morphed as we see our lives through the lens of God’s purposes rather than our own.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” –Romans 9:28
Find out how God gifted and wired you and use that.
As you spend this next few years trying to answer the question “what do you do?” know that God has gifted you with seeds of talent and calling. You can choose to investigate and invest in these gifts. Years down the road, I can see the way that my friends have leaned into the way that God made them. One adores filing and organization. Another can handle blood and is not in the least grossed out or queasy while stitching up a wound. My Brother was born mechanical, he was picking locks with my bobby pins in elementary school because his brain just understands mechanical things. What I hear from many of them is that they never realized that the natural bents or inclinations they had were more than just a talent or an interest. Pay attention to the places you excel, where you are fascinated and want to know more.
No, it is not just your mom’s job to tell you are good at art, or science, or with people. Open your eyes, listen to what others see, and be aware of where you feel purpose.
Always know that no matter where you go, or what you do, you are incredibly loved. Not because of what you might be someday, what you plan to do, or the path you are on, but because God calls you his.
Holly Hawes is a wife of 7 years as well as mom to a teenager (by adoption) and a child she’ll meet in heaven. She’s been a foster mom to 10 kids in the last 3 years and works part-time as a church bookkeeper. She loves interacting with people who are hungry for change and ready to see God at work in their lives. She studied Intercultural Studies at Corban University and loves to build bridges between cultures and people. She writes to tell the stories of what God has done, especially through her experiences of infertility, foster care, and adoption.
Images found at Pixabay