Friday, May 23, 2014

So You Graduated

"Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12

Oh graduation! Such a beautiful time of celebration: senior pictures, graduation parties, and sad good-bye songs. The grand finale of 12+ years of school. You have crossed the finish line and been handed that hard-earned diploma.

It is hard to imagine that it has already been a year since I graduated, since I stepped across that imaginary line into the “real world.” It seems to have flown by and yet when I look back a year ago today I see that a lot has happened and I have learned a great deal.

This time is such a pivotal time in life. The year after college is hard for a lot of reasons, some of which were a surprise to me. This precious time can be a time to draw near and intimate with the Lord, but it can also be a vulnerable time that leads people astray. So, I thought I might share some things that I learned within my first year of this “real world.”

1. I desire community. My entire life up until graduation, community has pretty much been handed to me on a silver platter. As students, we are surrounded by community. We are in classes with people around the same age, with similar life struggles, and who often come from the same socio-economic class and culture as we do. Boom. Friendship.

…Then you get out into the real world. You move for a job or a friend or a boyfriend or an adventure. Suddenly, you find yourself in a big pool of people who are all different ages, in different life stages, have different beliefs, and different priorities. You quickly find that it is not as easy to build community as it was freshman year of college when you literally became friends with someone after 5 minutes. The reality is that the people around you may not be looking or even wanting your friendship. They will probably already have their friends, their family, and their hobbies that take up more of their time than they even have. So you come in excited to build relationship and are met with rejection or apathy. You go to work, come home, and want to explore your new life but not necessarily on your own. So you hop on Facebook and you stare at the faces of everyone else that seem to live perfect, happy lives surrounded by tons of friends. As the loneliness comes over you all you think is “man, I miss college.” This will happen, and that’s okay.

Loneliness is something that can make or break you. In Scripture, we are told that as believers we are guaranteed times of loneliness. ("I did not sit in the company of revelers, nor did I rejoice; I sat alone, because your hand was upon me, for you had filled me with indignation." Jeremiah 15:17) We should anticipate it, because unfortunately while many may believe in God or claim some form of spirituality – majority do not have a personal relationship with the Lord. It can be difficult to find other authentic believers to befriend. Yet the Lord can use times of loneliness to draw us further into intimacy with Him. What a sweet, sweet time it is to rely less on the church or other believers for our faith and to draw deeper and deeper in dependence on God. On the other hand, this desire for community may lead some to seek it where they can find it – and that usually means settling for friends who may not be believers, going out and doing what the world says you should do in your 20s, and following a path that leads to a lot of emptiness and probably eventually…further loneliness.

Take the time to seek community in healthy, Christ-filled relationships if at all possible. Yet be aware that it is going to take time and when you face the loneliness that is sure to come allow the Lord to find you in that place and fill you with His living water. I promise nothing compares.

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, 'The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.'" Lamentations 3:22-24

2. I am a breed of the “adventure” culture. I have noticed something about our generation. Many of us are beginning to rebel from the societal ideal that tells us to get a job, open a 401k, get married, settle in the suburbs, and retire at a ripe old age of 65. More and more, I see people getting out and taking the time to travel, go on adventures, and experience other cultures. Now, I do not think there is anything inherently wrong with any of these things. In fact, I am excited to see how our culture will grow as our generation develops eyes which are widened to the outside world. The motive is what I fear. The idea that “God is adventure” or “I must do big things for God!” The desire to seek these things just as a way to oppose the system; and say “Ha! Take that society!”

What I have learned is that the Lord is present in both the big and the small. I am no more righteous if I serve with an indigenous tribe than if I serve my family in our suburban home. There are many ways that the Lord can use us for His glory – one way is no better than the other. Some of my greatest Jesus moments this past year have been in simple daily tasks; a conversation with a stranger while getting lost; scrubbing a toilet alongside a resident; singing hymns in my car; taking in the stillness of each morning. The Lord is in every experience if I allow Him to be, if I acknowledge Him and ask Him to walk with me through each day. 

So I want to apologize for the times that I have emphasized adventure or huge events to be the biggest moments of glory in my life. The truth is - I experience glory in the small details of every day. Maybe I do not talk about that very much because well…it might be boring to hear about those things. But I want to be careful not to neglect the truth of the simple joy that comes from being a child of God each and every day, no matter how exciting or mundane that day may be. You do not have to go on an adventurous safari trek in Africa or an Amazonian mission trip to find the Lord – He is there, within you, and every day is an adventure when you get to follow and surrender to a mighty and incredible God.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" 
Colossians 3:23

3. I do not have it all figured out and I do not want to. I am a girl and I like timelines. I like to have things planned and know what is coming. This also means that I often fall prey to a waiting game. I get so excited for whatever step is next that I fail to live fully on the very step that I am actually on. Life can easily become a never-ending waiting game. By my last semester, I was so ready for graduation that I was pretty much zombie-mode those last few weeks of waiting. When I graduated, I was so excited to move to Indiana. When I was nearing the end of my time in Indiana, I was just ready to be back in Texas. When I was back in Texas, I was just excited to start my first job. Then comes waiting anxiously for marriage and kids and on and on and on I go. That mentality was exhausting! 

All the big moments and transitions of life are great, and I love how the Lord has placed everything in its own timing. He prepares us for every stage in our life, and when we are ready to move to the next we will know because He will guide us there. Yet again and again I try to take my timeline into my own hands, under my control. I do not think the blame is all on me though. As a college grad, be prepared for that golden question “So what is your plan now?” My new favorite answer is “My plan is to have no plan.” I love taking the opportunity to share about my desire to grow in my trust of the Lord. Yes, I still have my responsibility to work hard, to steward the resources God provides for me, and to be wise in decisions. However for me it is very natural to over-plan, but it is not so natural to let go and trust. So that is where my focus is: to trust the Lord, to surrender, to let go of my plans and follow His will.

"But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." Psalm 33:11

There is sad news though, unfortunately the Lord will not just lay out His plan for you so that you can anticipate all that will happen in your life. He is not going to tell you what age you will marry, or when He will open that job opportunity for you or even what is coming in the next season of your life. It is frustrating, it is hard; yet it is also beautiful how the Lord would set it up in such a way that requires us to come to Him daily. He provides just enough for our daily bread. I come to Him daily and every day fall more in love and more in faith. He teaches me how to have peace in the unknown, confidence in the future, and fullness in the present. His daily fellowship is fully satisfying and I want nothing more than to soak in it and enjoy it and love others because of it; plan or no plan. 

It is still definitely a process that the Lord is teaching me – and I do not claim to not have my to-do lists or ideals, because I do. Yet I choose to focus on slowly letting go of the control I still claim over my life and allowing God to take it all. So while society, friends and family, and even your own mind will encourage you towards a 5-year plan; be prepared to be flexible, anticipate change, pray for a heart of boldness and obedience for when that change comes; take one day at a time; and enjoy it. 

Congrats graduates!

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