It’s 15 minutes past the start of my 22nd birthday.
Normally I wouldn’t draw much attention to my birthday (there’s such a thing as non-birthday people who don’t celebrate for the entire month), but today calls for certain significance.
See, when I have felt like adults needed to remember just how naive and incompetent I really am, I’ve used the excuse this entire past year that “I’m only 21 years old.” This phrase has been used many times for many reasons, and I intended to use it up until the day I could no longer.
22 sounds so much older than 21. Maybe I’m making a bigger deal of it than I should be, but “21” screams of ignorance, alcohol, and the bridging of adolescence with adult-like privileges, whereas “22” sounds to me more like “You should have your act more together by now.”
And let me just set the record straight: I do not have my act together by now. Not even close.
Within my last week of being 21 years old, I have been offered 3 amazing opportunities by 3 different graduate programs.
Offer #1: Stay at UF, free tuition, and receive a monthly salary.
Offer #2: Go to Texas A & M, free tuition, and receive a less than UF monthly salary.
Offer #3: Go to Virginia Tech, free tuition, and receive a more than UF monthly salary.
The options seem to weed themselves out until I throw in the following details:
Offer #1: Staying at UF means I most likely must leave the state later to earn a doctorate degree in my field. But, it also means being closer to the ones I love most, not to mention being cheapest in terms of moving.
Offer #2: I got to visit Texas A & M, and I FELL IN LOVE. The department, the traditions, the town, the whole sha-bang! “But there’s a spirit can ne’er be told. It’s the Spirit of Aggieland…” However, I fear that I fell in love with the “shiny new toy” and was not able to logically consider the school because of my emotional experience. I also fear the competitive atmosphere that TAMU brings–I’m terribly competitive and don’t sit well with being considered “average” or “ordinary” amongst elites. (BTW, I know how wrong all that sounds. Truthfully, I fear who I might become in that atmosphere more than anything else.) I might have to take out a loan if I go to TAMU, the first loan I’ve had to take out while in college; Praise God!
Offer #3: Although two flights were purchased by the department to fly me to visit, weather and the Lord’s sovereignty canceled both of my scheduled trips. This kept me from making the emotional connections with this school like I did in Texas. VT has many, many new prospects for future projects, funding, and other jazzy words used in academia. Also, I’d be working with one of the most respected men in the department on “community viability,” which to me is code for “leadership translatable to ministry.” I don’t really know anyone in the department beyond what my UF professors have told me about other professors there. I’m an extrovert, and I know the Lord will provide friends if I go there, but I’m still afraid of being alone. Also, it snows there. (And FYI, I’ve lived in Florida for 22 years counting today.)
Both TAMU and VT are in the bible belt, and both boast great college ministries. Both are top notch schools in my field of study. Both have incredible faculty and connections to my support team at UF. My grandfather told my father that he thought I should go to one school, while my uncle (whom I regard more as my other grandfather) would love for me to attend the other. All of my family and friends who know my situation are praying for God’s will—which brings me to the crux of today’s thoughts.
Option 1. God might be wanting me to just choose a school to go to; after all, it’s between great and great. If this is true, my heart is somewhat put to rest…until I start to think about how this decisions will affect my relationships and who I will become after two years of graduate school. And then I start to panic and believing it’s really Option 2.
Option 2. God might have the best in mind and I have to seek His will on this one. He might want me to pray and listen to Him, to His heart and His plans for me. I might have to trust Him and believe His plan will prosper me and not harm me and give me hope and a future. This option scares the bee-jeezas out of me.
What if I hear him wrong? What if I am too biased to hear Him? What if I won’t hear Him because I have struggled to hear Him lately and I end up at the wrong school? What if I choose based on my own selfish desires and pay the price for it?
I’m 22 years old today, and I feel like I don’t have any excuse for not being able to make this decision by seeking the Lord. Taylor Swift would simply sing about “feeling 22” and how “everything will be alright if we just keep dancing like we’re 22.” Let me tell you–I do NOT feel like I am 22, nor do I feel like dancing like I am.
I feel like I’m still 21 and ignorant,
21 and irresponsible,
21 and lazy,
21 and selfish,
21 and incapable,
21 and scared,
21 and lonely,
21 and depressed,
21 and no where near where I should be,
21 and still falling down,
21 and asking-screaming-crying to God without hearing much feedback.
With graduation approaching, Jeremiah 29:11 is spoken of with increased frequency as a popular, overused, futuristic scripture. “For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” However, no one really mentions what is said after this verse, nor is the context really brought up.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place form which I carried you into exile.”
WHOAH. Oh No He Didn’t. God exiled these people?!
Normally Unmentioned Jeremiah 29:11 Context: God had sent the people of Judah into exile so that the people would learn once again to submit to His will. Learning to pray for peace and prosperity for their conquerors (as mentioned in verses 4-7) was one of their first lessons. God also had purpose for the Jews among foreign people–to bring their faith and influence their captors. This went on for 70 years–an entire lifetime–before God fulfilled His promise to bring them back.
So really, God was telling His people that there was a future hope for them in His promise; however, it wasn’t necessarily going to be in their preferred timeframe. But, what is even more important to notice here is HOW GOD RESPONDS to our choices.
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.”
God is making it clear that He is Accessible. Reachable. Findable. Within Grasp. It’s possible.
He listens when we call upon Him. That’s not a conditional statement–other than the condition of actually praying to Him.
However, the “with all of your heart” condition has me worrisome again. How in the world do I know if my whole heart is in it? How did the people of Judah feel when they heard this? Did they also feel doomed because they know just how much they’ve screwed up at this whole “Loving God Only” thing?
I think I found an answer in another overused, futuristic verse.
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
How do you “trust in the Lord with all of your heart?” How do you “acknowledge him” in all your ways? How do you seek him “with all of your heart?”
Be okay with being in the dark for a little while. In the dark, you have no choice but to offer your whole heart to your only hope for light.
God’s people didn’t really know for sure how long they would be in captivity until God gave Jeremiah the message. Some of them probably didn’t have a clue why their God would allow this to happen to them. But, to do what God told them to do, they had to be okay with the unknown. Any questions or gripings had to be laid to rest with the peace they received from their Father. This peace wasn’t in the form of earthly peace from their circumstances (although they were told to pray for it among their captors in Jer. 29:7). This peace was understood in light of what God promised in verse 11. No matter the situation at the moment, no matter how long it lasted, God was going to come through, and there would one day be prosperity, hope and a future waiting for them.
I’m not going to lie; I’m frustrated that God didn’t make this decision easier for me. I mean, He could have allowed me to go to VT first, or even at all, so that I could make a solid comparison with TAMU. He could have just allowed me to get an offer from THE school and letters of denial from the others.
If God intends for me to seek Him to determine His plans for me, what He would say is best for me, then I have to be okay with being in the dark as to why He allowed what He did. I have to be okay with not understanding everything right now, or even where either choice might take me. Most of all, I have to push all my chips in and give God the trust He deserves. I have to sit in the dark and be willing to give my whole heart to find the light again. I have to let the Unknown sit around me so that the I Am will come sit inside me.
I have a tendency to fight with the Unknown, wrestle Him down and choke him from time to time, demanding answers like a spy willing to cut-off fingers and toes to get the truth. Unfortunately, this usually feels more like I am cutting off my own parts as the hopelessness of the Unknown cuts at me from within.
But, as promised in Jer. 29 12-14, God will hear me when I call to him in the dark. He will be found when I offer my whole heart, broken and leaky and bruised, in search for His presence. And, as promised in Prov. 3:5-6, when I offer my trust that He will come as I give Him my whole heart, when I acknowledge His presence even when I am in the dark, He will guide me in the right way.
On day 1 of being 22, I can tell you that I feel like I’m sitting in the dark right now. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I do not know where I will go to graduate school. I do not know if I’m going to get enough sleep tonight after writing this post. The Unknown is here. So, I will seek the Lord. I will not fight with the Unknown like I have before. I will let it sit beside me and instead choose to throw my everything into trusting that God will come through, that He will come to me like a light in the darkness. I will acknowledge His presence, His faithfulness to His promises, His hope for me in spite of the darkness, and He will then set my paths straight.
I think I would be okay with “dancing” like I’m 22 while I’m still in the dark if I knew God was surely coming for me.
Haha, “I like that.”
God gave me today knowing that I would discover these truths—which in my opinion makes today worth celebrating. Happy Dancin’-Like-I’m-22 to Me!