I touched on it last week, but 2008 wasn’t a great year for me. It’s really strange to realize that 2008 was five years ago. Five whole years have passed, and so much has changed since then. Five years, but it seems like just yesterday. All still so fresh in my mind.
I was a fresh faced (read: my beard wasn’t all that great) 20 year old going into his final year of college. At the start of 2008, things were going pretty well for me. I had a cool girlfriend, was looking forward to a summer internship with some local radio stations, and was a fairly popular dude on campus. A foundation had been laid for 2008 to be a great year. It was a year full of promise. Full of opportunity.
Of course, I wouldn’t be writing any of this, or probably have this blog at all, if 2008 had ended up like that. Instead, 2008 sucked. Hard.
The first thing that happened was the loss of that cool girlfriend. She was attractive, smart, and funny. Really, she was a great person, and together we were an awesome couple. But something was wrong. The relationship itself had gotten unhealthy. We reached that point, somewhere close to the two year mark, where things start to get significantly more stressful a lot more often. The point where it takes a significant amount of maturity to survive. And when we reached that point, we sort of folded in on ourselves. Demands started to be made of each other that we didn’t have the right to demand. Expectations (remember that whole post I wrote?) were given life that never should have been given life. We both dealt with the stress in incorrect ways, and we did a lot of harm.
In my case, I totally checked out. Things got tough, and I quit on her. When I should have woken up in the morning and made a conscious decision to be patient and love her through the tough times, I refused to do so. I turned selfish. I fought against her for the sake of my own happiness, instead of handling things the way I should have. And God bless her, she was somehow patient with me throughout the whole thing.
On March 5th, 2008, I had the worst night of my life. It was a day when nothing would go right for me at all, which didn’t help because I knew a tough conversation was coming that night. Breakups are always bad, but I call this night the worst of my life because it started the slide that would continue for the rest of the year. After ending the relationship, I spent the next several minutes in my car punching the steering wheel and the center console and asking God if any of this was the right decision. I broke the center console, also. Just so you understand how emotional I was at the time.
I was terrified. I was terrified that I had just screwed up my entire future.
It was at this point in time that RUF campus minister Chad Smith stepped in and delivered this one phrase that totally changed everything:
God Won’t Let You Ruin Your Life
Now, at first glance this seems like some health and wealth BS, but it’s not. And it was very timely for me to hear. After the breakup, a huge amount of people thought I was a turd and stopped talking to me. For a guy who deals with abandonment issues, you can imagine that this was a bit of a rough experience. As the year went on, I worked the worst internship anyone could ever work and ended up with more free time than a guy with no friends around should have.
Basically, over the course of 2008, everything imploded. There were many nights spent saying up til 3 in the morning playing video game golf alone. There were many days spent by myself in my room because there wasn’t a point to go anywhere. There were a handful of moments in which I didn’t have the strength or will to do anything but lay face down on the ground defeated.
Yeah, not a great time.
But Chad gave me that advice, and here’s what he meant by it:
1. Don’t be afraid of what lies ahead
You know that over-quoted verse from Jeremiah? Where God promises His people that He has plans for them and all? Well, while that promise wasn’t TECHNICALLY directed straight at us, there are so, so very many promises that God HAS thrown our way. In particular, as illustrated in Matthew 6, He promises that He is strong and that He loves us.
I firmly believe in the Sovereignty of God, and my sanity is a major reason why. If I didn’t look at God as being both in control AND loving, then what would be the point of doing anything? I would still be face down on the ground, unable to continue. But that’s not the truth. The truth is that God has a plan. He is the one who orchestrates everything. So even when it looks like everything you’re attempting is failing, or even if you seem to be stuck in one place, it’s okay. Man, it’s hard to see. I know that. But surprisingly, it’s all okay.
You’re not going to screw up God’s plan. No mistake or decision you make will do that. As the years have gone by, I can see how that relationship wasn’t the right one and how to properly pursue friendships. At the time? I couldn’t. But God had a plan. Understanding it wasn’t my place (thanks, Sanctus Real).
So now, I find myself in another period of life where I felt pretty confident in where things were going, only to have it thrown back in my face. And I don’t build confidence in the future very easily. So there are again moments in which I want to just lie face down and not move for a while. But thanks to those words Chad spoke to me five years ago, I can approach these unknowns with much more secure hope and confidence. Hope and confidence that are built upon a stronger foundation than I could establish.
I look ahead and still see so many unknowns. But shoot, isn’t that what the future is? Just a big unknown? But it’s not scary anymore. Well, okay yeah it is. But I don’t care how scary it is. Because it’s not my place to fear, and it’s not my place to understand.
2. Know what you want and go for it
My internship blew. It just did. They didn’t give me much to do, but I didn’t have time to find another job to go along with it. It was stuck in this awful summer of nothing to do. In the process, I also learned something awful: I hated it. I hated the thing I was in school to study and ultimately pursue. I hated the whole industry, and it seemed like my future was again thrown out the window.
Surprisingly, though, I wasn’t totally devastated by this. Actually, it was pretty enlightening, because it showed me something that I did NOT want. It not only showed me a job I wasn’t all that interested in, but also something about myself.
I am a relation-driven person, not a career-driven one. So the type of job I have? Isn’t nearly as important to me as the people in my life and the community I live in. Stability for stability’s sake isn’t something that I’m overly concerned with. I like variety. If I can find something to do that I enjoy, then the rest of the factors don’t matter as much. My job now? It is stressful, fairly unrewarding, and doesn’t pay well. But you know what? I am good at it, and I like it. And that is more important to me than the paycheck.
A few years back, a friend of mine encouraged me to be honest with God about my desires. He said that God is a God who likes taking care of His children, which is a neat concept considering we often approach Him with the mindset of “I’m trying to not bother you, so you’re holy and I deserve whatever I get. Bye.”
In truth, though, we should be able to approach our Father; our loving Father who gave EVERYTHING for us and would do it all again in a heartbeat. We should be able to approach Him and be honest about what we want and to pray for opportunities to pursue them. We should be bold with our Father.
Look at David in the Psalms. He approached God with the boldness of a man who understood the strength of the relationship. When enemies surrounded him, he boldly asked God for deliverance. When things were good, he boldly thanked God for deliverance. It didn’t matter the circumstances, he was bold in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. And in those many, many situations where he found himself running for his life, he prayed not only for deliverance, but that he would honor God through it all anyway. He understood that God was the one with the plan, not David. And he was fine in the moments of pain and heartache, just as he was in the moments of joy and celebration. David was the same man with the same faith when he was hiding in caves as he was when he was dancing in the streets. Boldness and humility.
I know that I want a job I’m good at. But I also know that it’s not as huge a priority to me as the opportunity to be involved in my community and be a good friend to those I care about. I have a list of wants. There is no “dream job” on that list, and that’s okay with me. Because I can be honest about those wants, and God will give me the opportunities He wants me to have.
And if His opportunities don’t line up with the ones I want? Great. That’s perfectly fine. Because He is the one with the plan, not me. And His plan is always going to be better than mine.
And you know what? No fear or desire of mine can screw up His plan. That’s pretty cool.