I’m finally sitting down and writing something. You have no clue how hard it has been, just to get to this point. I almost feel like all of the unnecessary trifles and distractions in my life have somehow conspired together and created this physical barrier blocking me from writing. This is my first attempt at whipping out a machete and slashing through all of that crap. Here it goes.
I’m at a period of my life filled with uncertainty. I’m not at all alone in this, as most of the people I know who I graduated college with are also experiencing similar doubts and fears. These doubts include issues of career, financial security, and the like. The concerns are not at all unusual or silly for those of us who have recently graduated college and are trying to immerse ourselves in the working world. Many of us are emerging from 16 years of schooling, where the next year was essentially planned out for us. We did not have to consider what our destination would be after completing year 11 of school. We simply proceeded to year 12.
Not so anymore. We’ve walked across the stage in the black cap and gown, we’ve been handed the diploma, we’ve partied and celebrated the end of college. Now what?
Perhaps the reason that I’ve struggled writing all of this time is the very core of why life after college is so difficult for some of us. We don’t know what the topic or narrative of our life is yet.
Donald Miller has written an excellent book entitled A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, in which he goes into this idea of living your life as a story you would want to be told. Every story involves a main character, you, and some kind of conflict that the character must overcome. A meaningful story is one where the character works to overcome the conflict, and ultimately does. He expands much further upon this general idea, but just the thought behind it is really exciting to me. How many of us actually live our lives as a story?
I can’t honestly say that I’m particularly proud of this period of my story. I have at times doubted God and wondered if there truly is any great plan or purpose for my life. I’ve whined and complained, not always verbally, about the present situation I’m in. It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of looking to the past with fondness, and wishing for those days again. When I choose to do this, though, I neglect living fully in the present, and appreciating all of the good things that God has blessed me with. That is why perspective is EVERYTHING during this stage of life.
If I choose to focus on the now, and what God is doing now, I am so much better for it. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Isaiah 40:31: “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (ESV) There is such truth in this verse, the kind of truth that I’ve experienced firsthand recently.
I took a trip a few weeks ago to a Catholic retreat center up in the hills of Montecito near Santa Barbara, CA. I decided to take a weekend away from electronic distractions, to just get alone with God and listen to His voice. It was one of the best and LONGEST weekends that I’ve experienced in a long time! I arrived on a Friday evening, so there wasn’t a whole lot to do by the time I got to my room and settled in. But on Saturday, I was able to get outside into nature with my Bible in hand, quiet myself, and simply meditate on God’s Word. The sun was out, the weather was in the low 70s, and it was a perfect Santa Barbara day. Birds chirped and made melodies, a light wind rustled through the tall branches of a large eucalyptus tree…in every way it was a Kodak moment. This was His creation, and it was good. I simply let it soak in.
What I was most struck by was the silence. It was unusually foreign to me. The sounds of Nature were the only soundtrack. I thought of all the noises that are constantly circulating around us at each moment, and it’s suddenly so obvious why it can be so difficult to hear God. Scripture tells us to be still, and know that He is God. I can’t think of a day when I’m absolutely still. There’s always music playing, people talking, a TV blaring, or some other noise that is crying out for my attention. As we get older and our lives get increasingly more complex, with more demands for our time, I believe that these quiet times become all the more important. Is it possible for us to take a day or so out of our busy schedules to be still and know that He is God?
I’m starting to get the sense that I’m rambling, and that’s not a good thing. So let me dive into the meat of the matter. What I discovered up at that retreat center a few weeks ago was that we cannot base how we feel on our outside circumstances. I feel like crap when I let what’s going on around me affect me too deeply. Our circumstances are always changing, and when I’m going through a period of uncertainty and doubt it’s so easy for me to feel like I’m trapped there. I get discouraged, and I wonder if my life is going anywhere. This is exactly what Satan wants…for us to lose our focus, to assume that we are failures based on our circumstances. In reality this is the furthest from the truth. God designed me and you for a purpose, and His ways are not our own. These periods of confusion are given to us so that we might learn to trust Him. This isn’t something that comes easy for me, or for anybody. But He is worthy of our trust. In just my life experience, He has shown His faithfulness time and time again.
In my junior year at Westmont, I went through a period of deep discouragement. I was having difficulty finding strong friendships, and it was partly because of the fact that I transferred in and didn’t have the benefit of getting to know my graduating class over the previous 2 years. I prayed for friendships, and I had many casual friends for a time. It wasn’t until I was asked to enter the theatre department, however, that prayer was answered. I met some of the most quirky and unique individuals that I had ever seen, and everything changed. I had no plans on getting into theatre…it just sort of happened. I wasn’t looking for it, but God brought it about. The last place I imagined I’d be was on a stage, but it was on that stage that I discovered (or re-discovered?) my passion and my friends.
You’ve heard it before…He works in mysterious ways. We have to remember the promise, and not let circumstances overwhelm us. The Israelites had the Promised Land, yet they chose to focus on the desert and how miserable they felt. Perspective, I say…it’s all about perspective.
Postscript - To speak further on the issue of circumstances causing despair, I wanted to let you the reader know that I experienced a small amount of discouragement just writing this. Voices telling me that none of this made sense or was any good, that I should stop writing, etc. I can’t guarantee that this is any good…after all, you’re getting a first draft. If it isn’t any good, I apologize.