Broken Circles

Broken CirclesI am the kind of person who likes structure, organization, and carefully executed plans. Sometimes, believe it or not, God works within my preferences for structure, giving me a tiny taste of his organization and his planned provision in life. And sometimes, God works very much behind the scenes or in ways I don’t understand, showing me instead that his plans are far greater than any of mine could ever be, and that he is directing this world with precision I could not begin to understand.

Since the beginning of this semester, about a month ago, I have been seeing many things come full circle. I’m rooming with the same roommate I had freshman year, doubting and recommitting to my major once again, and dealing with past struggles. I got a message out of the blue from one of my best friends in high school, who I haven’t spoken to in years, just wanting to share with me about how things are going for her. October marks four years that I have attended my home church, and four years that I have known the amazing pastor and his wife and kids who are seriously family to me. Everything was coming to a close in an organized and structured way, and I was unconsciously preparing myself to go to Thailand for twelve weeks and then to graduate a month after that. I could see it happening, and I was okay with what I saw.

And then reality hit.

A door closed, student teaching became a bit uncertain, stress piled up, meetings had to be missed and rescheduled. I was a bit pathetic and emotional. Then there was a death in my church family this week. There is a lot of unknown.

When something “comes full circle,” it completes a cycle, returns to its beginnings.

American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

It is as if some of the circles, instead of “coming full circle” and allowing for neat closure, are stopping or even breaking before they reach the other side. To my finite mind, the resolution I expected September and this semester to bring isn’t going to happen.

But is not my finite mind very, um… finite? And is not my God very infinite? Might it be that what I see as broken circles, God sees as a masterpiece he is creating? A plan so big that I simply cannot wrap my mind around it? Might it be that God sees beauty in things I find broken?

Perhaps I wanted the “coming full circle” idea to work because it seems neat and put together. I can daydream about future plans and “perfect” endings all I want, but real life is God’s plan, and he’s taking care of it. I am learning to embrace his ways that are higher than mine, even when they don’t make sense right away. “Besides being complicated,” C.S. Lewis wrote, “reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect.”

So, while I am confused as to why not everything will end with my opinion of nice, neat closure, I am reminded that God’s plan for providing closure for my college years is perfect, whether or not it seems that way now. I can rest in the fact that we no longer have the innocence (and inexperience) of freshmen and that we can make decisions like adults. I can rest in the fact that I have been blessed with a community here at college that is messy and real. I can rest in the fact that God is still making beautiful things out of his broken and imperfect children. I can rest knowing even when they don’t seem perfect to me, God’s ways are perfect. Very much so. Even when I doubt him, I wouldn’t change those perfect plans for the world.

God’s way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true…

– Psalm 18:30

 

Photo credit: Elizabeth Foote / Flickr / CC BY-SA

September Brings Panic and Anticipation

Panic and Anticipation

The idea of the “real world” makes me both ridiculously excited and disastrously panicked. Since when I am a senior in college? I mean, really.

The “real world” means getting a job, which I can’t do until I apply for a job, which I can’t do until I have my certification or some semblance of an expected certification. The “real world” means moving to where the job is, which could be close or far, which usually means forming a new community, which is difficult, to say the least. The “real world” means paying money for things I can’t see, but really need, like insurance and retirement. The “real world” means *gasp* guys becoming men and *more gasps* getting to know them without curfews and visiting hours. The “real world” means not living at home anymore, not depending upon mom for grocery money, not being able to swing by the caf for a free meal. The “real world” means budgeting more wisely. The “real world” means making my own schedule, planning my own days, and thinking ahead even more so. It means nurturing my own relationships, because no college Open Dorm is going to do it for me.

And all of this is completely terrifying.

I thought I would graduate college having gone on at least one date. I know it’s only September, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. I thought I would graduate college confident and secure in everything I wanted to do in life, which just doesn’t happen. I thought I would graduate college with a job in hand and an apartment with roommates with my name on it, and now I know it doesn’t happen that way.

When I graduated high school, the yearbook staff made a slideshow with each graduate’s picture, name, birthplace, college we would attend in the fall, and intended major. I’ve realized why they don’t do the same thing for college graduates. Many recent college grads go for any job they can find when they graduate, even if that means education majors working in the Admissions Office at their alma mater, or a counseling major taking a few years off before heading to graduate school. Most recently-out-of-college folks don’t have anything cute to put on a slideshow for their parents. The immediate after-college decisions are often not very pretty nor very simple, especially if there is an upcoming marriage. At least single people are free to move where and when they want because a spouse’s job isn’t on the line. Yet even in a single’s circumstances, this transition seems to be very tricky for a lot of people.

And don’t tell me that “everyone else is growing up, so it can’t be that hard.” Believe me, I am not everyone else. Yes, I may have a more organized and self-motivated approach to life than some people, but I feel like there is SO MUCH I do not know. And there is so much I’m just going to have to learn the hard way, through experience and trial & error. Even though, somehow, everyone else must learn it that way, too, I am still afraid. And a little bit panicked.

And yet, I am so ridiculously excited. Excited to have my own place, to decorate and furnish it how I want. Excited to meet people and make plans and go places and travel and not have to sign “Sign-out Sheets” with my RA, even though I love her and I’m appreciative that the college wants to know what we’re up to. I’m excited to teach and to inspire and to see the light bulb turn on in my students’ minds. I’m excited to make literature click for students, to invest into their lives, to allow them to express themselves in writing. I’m excited to explore new places and find a new community and visit new churches and meet women who can mentor me. I’m excited to find little Asian grocery stores and farmer’s markets and organic shops and cook food for people. I’m excited to learn what it means to love and to nurture another person, not because I have to, but because I deeply want to. I’m excited to find my niche in a church, a community, and a school.

I think I am learning that change is necessary, even good, for growth. A bit of uncertainty at the brink of change and even full-blown panic in its midst is okay, because without it we would never learn to push through to the other side. We would never learn what it means to overcome chaos and grow into ourselves on the other side. So, you know what, I’m okay that I’m a little panicked right now. I’m okay with the fact that I can’t figure out if I am feeling more afraid or more excited about growing up.

Autumn Leaves

I am giving myself grace to figure out this whole “growing up” thing, because God gave me grace first, before I even had a thought about grace. Speaking of God’s grace… I went to buy groceries this past Thursday night, and my total was much less ($20-$30 less!) than I anticipated. God is just continuing to prepare the way for me! I am so blessed to know his love and provision and overwhelming grace. He knows I don’t have it all together, and I can rest in that.

This is going to be scary. I am going to panic. But I am also going to look forward with joyful anticipation and enjoy the journey while it’s here. Just like autumn, the single journey into adulthood will not last forever.

Leaves Photo credit: flatworldsedge / Foter / CC BY-SA