I just looked back at my last post about graduation, and I have to say that it’s a good thing I wrote it when I did. Had it been just a few hours later, you would have experienced the side of me that cried in my bed for quite some time that night. Even then, I didn’t realize how much was about to change just within the coming weeks. Moving on from college changes people; I think for myself and many of my friends, it has worn us down in such small intervals that it has barely been noticeable.
Maybe some of you know that feeling, and I’m sure many others find that evaluation to be somewhat dramatic. I wish I could describe it in a way that sounds more genuine and real, but I think we can all agree on the fact that for many of us, leaving what’s familiar changes us.
It’s times like these when you find out what you really worship. For me, I’m learning that maybe I found God a little too synonymous with college. I found happiness in my friendships and relationships, in my ability to wake up every morning and walk onto a campus filled with people that had similar ambitions and goals. I found it in the comfort of my surroundings and in my identity as a young adult that didn’t actually have to be an adult yet. And the most deceiving thing about it all is that I didn’t realize how much of myself I had invested in all of it until it started to crumble. I’ve felt pretty helpless and frustrated these past few weeks, because as I’m running around trying to stack all of these crumbling pieces back on top of each other, nothing’s working. Nothing is familiar, nothing is controlled, and there’s no game plan to fix it.
I reached somewhat of a breaking point last week, and as I sat down and wrote as much as I could about everything I was feeling, it hit me: Contentment apart from God isn’t really contentment. Everything that I was hoping could keep me happy — all of the things that felt so familiar and safe — ended up failing me, simply because none of it was designed to bear such a burden. I’ve had to learn this many times before, but the reality is that as soon as I shifted my attention from God onto what was most comfortable, the learning process had to start all over again. Our hearts will always find something to worship, even if it isn’t God. And when I think about it being “worship” rather than the lighthearted terms we often use to describe it (focus, investment, attention, etc.), it seems pretty senseless to allow my heart to worship anything that yields itself to such instability.
I think it’s in moments like this, where everything seems like it’s gone wrong, that God does His greatest work. Through brokenness and confusion, He gets our attention — and that’s the starting point of redemption. For a while, I had understood that a boring life was probably a sign that I wasn’t answering the challenges that God was issuing to me — but the appeal of familiarity and comfort grew more and more, and somewhere along the way I just lost sight of the desire to go wherever God was calling me, no matter how unknown or uncomfortable.
What I often forget is that eventually, the effects of a life rooted in contentment and not God begin to show themselves — so I start praying for Him to bring me back, whatever it takes (which I’ve learned before is a request you should brace yourself for) — and things start happening. They’re not always great, either. Relationships become less catering. My job becomes harder. Money gets tighter. And none of it makes sense until I remember that I asked God for this; I asked Him to bring me back, so He’s tearing down idols. He’s making me realize my need for Him — and as hard as it is, it doesn’t take long for me to realize that even this, a life where idols are constantly being torn from my hands, is better than living half-heartedly in a stagnant, contentment-bound life.
But even when I feel like I can only give with half of my heart, or I’ve allowed what I want to trump what God is asking of me, or whatever else causes me to be anything but the person I should be, God already sent His Son to die for it. As the years pass by, I seriously wonder how God puts up with me being on fire for Him one week, and completely tuned out the next. I wonder how He sees me push prayer to the bottom of my priorities day after day, and still listens to me with an open heart when I finally run to him for help. It’s a truly unconditional love, and I just don’t have the words to say why Jesus would die for people as fickle as me. All I know is that it’s true.
I’m in a very weird stage in my life. Everything feels temporary and unstable, and the people that I would normally run to for perspective are in the same situation. I know that eventually, certain aspects of life will fall into place and others will become unknown once again, and for the many of us that find ourselves in that stage of life, I’m convinced that it’s probably the one we should be most grateful for. They show us our need for God, which is the ultimate purpose of our lives anyway—to come back to Him.
So maybe there’s no such thing as a perfectly content, stable life. The good news: there’s something far, far better.