Is it ironic to anyone else that we usually spend more time, money, and energy preparing for the next stage of life than living in the current one? Now, I know that’s not always the case, but consider the college years. We take out exorbitant loans in order to pay for an education that should train us for the next few stages of life. We spend (or should spend) hours in classes and lecture halls and libraries, not for the benefit of our college years, but for some future benefit. Some girls pin wedding dresses and bridal ideas to Pinterest before they even have a boyfriend, not to mention an engagement ring. In high school, we long for the freedom of college and spend hours visiting potential schools, applying for scholarships, writing essays, and settling on majors. As single people, we dream of marriage and children. We can’t wait for “real jobs” that somehow magically support a family, put food on the table, and leave a little extra for that dream vacation. Is it just that we aren’t satisfied with our current circumstances and long for the greener grass on the other side?
Yes… I mean… No, there’s more to it.
There is something serious to be said about constantly looking for what’s next. It’s like living as if you’re in a waiting room. God has not called us to passive waiting – he has called us to active, working, living-in-the-moment waiting, a kind of waiting that gets knee deep in the current situation until a tap on the shoulder calls us to what he has for us next. Never get so caught up in what might happen tomorrow that you neglect today and all of its unique joys, trials, discoveries, and adventures. I believe that God has us where he wants us right now for a reason. Even the in-between stages are adventures. As Anne Voskamp once wrote, “Waiting is just a gift of time in disguise — a time to pray wrapped up in a ribbon of patience — because is the Lord ever late?” He has right where he wants us.
However, I would also propose the idea that we need a mindset that is also looking forward to the future. There needs to be a balance. There is reason that we think about the future often and have all kinds of desires for our futures. I believe it would be wrong to ignore those thoughts and desires. So how can we deal with them properly? By using them to prepare ourselves.
I once attended a college group the day they decided to study marriage. A student asked the pastor why we have to study marriage if we aren’t yet married. The pastor responded with something along the lines of: “You’re in college. It’s not going to be long until you are looking to get married. This is the perfect time to be getting ready.”
Many years ago, I began listening to sermons on God’s purposes for marriage, learning healthy communication techniques, reading books on relationships, and observing positive and negative relationships. I did all this before I began dating in order to prepare myself for a relationship ahead of time. The same is true for a career. I knew I wanted to go into the field of education when I was young, so I signed myself up to spend 120+ weeks of my life studying, reading, and learning how to be a teacher, not to mention the various summer activities I participated in that further prepared me for my upcoming role. I feel like my college education has barely scratched the surface, but it was the pathway to becoming a teacher, and I needed to take the time to invest into a four year degree so I could be better prepared for what I believe God has called me to do with my life. I will never be completely ready for what’s next, but I can be a little more prepared by looking ahead.
As Switchfoot sings, “Grow, grow where you are. Anchor your roots underneath.” We should actively wait for what’s next while at the same time being knee-deep in what’s now.
On that note, let me take a moment to change direction. When I talk about stages of life, I’m also talking about identity. We easily find our identities in what we do. It’s the first question many people ask us. It’s in our Twitter pages and our Facebook “About Me” sections. For a long time, I found my identity in my status as a student and as a single person. I wrote blog posts after blog posts (including a three-part series) on singleness. I lived and breathed that identity. Singleness was something God used powerfully to bring about sanctification in my life. Then one day a really awesome guy showed up in my life and chose to pursue me. I heard God release me from intentional singleness. In four weeks, I went from identifying as a woman comfortable in my singleness (complete with books, tea, and a cat), to trying to find my identity as a dating woman. I welcomed the relationship and I’m beyond excited about it, but it’s difficult to transition like that.
Yesterday, I read a blog post by a woman who had recently moved from a stage of infertility to a stage of having children. Her identity changed to include being a mother in the time it took to take a pregnancy test. In the midst of the realization, she wrote:
How do you say goodbye to a season that [God has] used to make you into who you are?
I resonate with that. My identity has changed, and the circumstances of my life that God uses to mold me may have changed, but the lessons I learned from those circumstances have not changed. God is the same, and his truths and his words are the same. Now God is using a different stage of life (that of a relationship) to bring about my good and his glory. In 2010, God told me he wanted to do great and wonderful things in me and through me before there was a guy in my life. And you know what, he did! I was called to teaching, developed some life-long friendships, took two trips overseas, spent a summer as a camp counselor, graduated college Magna Cum Laude, and landed what I believe will be an awesome job. The mind-blowing thing is that God’s great and wonderful plans don’t end there. He is still doing great and wonderful things, and he orchestrates circumstances to keep bringing them about.
At this moment, as my journey shifts a bit, I find myself overjoyed at God’s ability to work all things together in a way that only He can. I am saying goodbye to one stage only to say hello to another.
Thank you for joining me on this journey of discovery as I strive to keep my feet on the ground and my eyes to the sky.