I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want lately. Your last year of college (and really all the years before that, but mainly this one), you get a lot of the question, “so what are your plans for next year?” or some variation. Really they’re just asking, what do you want to do? Who do you want to be? I mean, it’s harmless. They’re just curious, and trying to be interested in your life (I mean, aren’t we all just trying to seem interested in each other, in a way?), but I always get so nervous when I’m asked that. Nothing seems like the right answer. I could go one direction and lay out a hyper-structured plan for my next five years, and come off arrogant, as if I’m overconfident in my ability to rely solely on my own strength. Or I could shrug my shoulders like a loser and give a simple, “No idea, but I’m full of faith!” like you’re not a real Christian unless you wait for the Lord to tell you what to pull out of the fridge for breakfast each morning.
Where is the line between planning and faith? It feels impossible to find sometimes. On the one hand, I want to plant seeds for my future that will actually grow and bear fruit. But on the other, I wake up every day and watch my own plans fail. All the time. If God has taught me one thing (and don’t worry, He’s taught me much more), it’s that He always, always has the best ideas. (I mean, just look at black holes or fibonacci spirals or iambic pentameter. You can’t write that stuff. Well, technically you can write iambic pentameter. Anyway.)
Someone once told me that God will always direct your steps, even if you don’t expect Him to. But you have to actually take steps. You can’t stand there shrugging at the sky expecting something to reach down, scoop you up and deposit you inside some master plan. I wish you could. I think lately it feels scary to even take one step. The closer I get to being really, truly on my own, every step feels big, like the stakes are too high for me to mess up.
At the same time, lately I find myself increasingly frustrated with people who only want to tiptoe. Who are still content, as C.S. Lewis says, “making mud pies in the sand,” (or something to that effect). Who are easily satisfied with things done halfway. Who only want to play games. Come on! I want to say. What do you really want? I’ve said many times this semester that I’m bored playing games. I admire people who aren’t afraid to take risks and make bold choices. I think I admire people who know how to fail well, too. I’m starting to sense it might be a more useful skill for me to learn than I want it to be.
To compensate, I can feel myself trying to turn this last year into as much of a success story as possible. To have something that I can look back on in the midst of future hypothetical disappointment and say, “Well, I’ve done better than this before. Maybe I can keep going. Maybe I can do it again.” Basically, I’m trying to postpone failure. Why? I’m still in the safest possible place to fail. If I can’t do it here with a safety net, why should I be able to do it when it’s dangerous? I want to make a better practice of looking at myself in the mirror and instead of asking, what do you want?, saying, alright,
what are you going to do about it?
So whoever you are, wherever you are, I hope that you find that invisible line between faith and planning. I hope you have people that are your safety net. I hope you take big steps, and never settle for playing a game instead of saying what you really mean. I hope you risk and fail and risk again.
The cool thing about falling is that grace is always waiting at the bottom. Leap away, friends.
P.S. For those of you that are just here for hipster content (it’s okay, I’m one of you), here’s my newest good song find. My roommate Eliza and I discovered it on our latest roadtrip.