The Great Empathizer.
Some of us might fall into a path of life that appears, as least from the outside, to be linear and smooth, you know – “as directed.” I say that as if I know nothing of it, but I’m sure some would think that mine has been that way. Yes and no. I think we should just go ahead and agree that nothing is ever as easy as it looks and that there’s not an adult on this earth who hasn’t experienced fear. Uncertainty often drives that.
All throughout life there are goals to achieve and during the younger years they tend to be clear. Even as you approach adulthood, the next steps appear clear.
Option A: Work.
Option B: Go to college.
Option C: Volunteer (for those of us who either want to dedicate our lives to this or just don’t want to do A or B right now, or some combination of the two).
*do or do not get married and attempt to love someone well while doing A, B, or C.
The fear increases, to a certain point, the closer you get to “deciding” on what you are to do. We respond to fear in two ways, don’t they say? We fight or we run. And I think that’s pretty true. So we decide or we don’t. If you are very young and are reading this, I’m sorry, but the following isn’t cut and dry either. Sometimes you are smart to decide. And sometimes you are smart to hold off on deciding. Where does the most uncertainty eventually lie? In time. In that we cannot know “when” to do “what” until it literally happens. Plans are never set in stone. Time is inescapable and has a heavy hand. We never know what tomorrow will bring. So how to execute the five year plan? Why make one?
What’s all this rambling for? Well, first it is an admission that I, too, fear. I sure do. Neck deep into a Master of Science in Applied Statistics and Data Analytics (in case you’re hiring), I still fear being unemployed. More than that, I fear not ending up where I want to be geographically, of watching my nephews and niece grow up in pictures. If I had started out with them that way, I probably wouldn’t mind. But I didn’t, and so I do. I scroll through page after page of LinkedIn and Indeed job ads hoping that something jumps out at me. Then I apply for ten, four of which I care about, two of which I might actually be qualified for.
“Vanity of vanities. All is vanity.” This quote from the wisest man to live runs across my mind probably once a day.
Next I picture the job site and am convinced that if I am given a chance, I would absolutely exceed expectations. But what if I don’t? Then I knock off a notch for that kind of thinking. “Can’t do that, Jessica. Must be confident in education. Doubt implies weakness.”
And that continues for a cycle of time indeterminable. Maybe a few weeks. Then there comes a time when I lift my head up and ask God, “Why?” but don’t say anything else, because I only half know what I want, anyway.
A couple days go by, another hundred scrolls through jobsites.
Meanwhile, school is going just fine, I am amazed at how not insane this semester is if I take it one week at a time, and my living situation is, hands down, ten times better than I had hoped. Side note forthcoming, but I really have to say it: Long story short, I on a bit of a whim decided to live, for my last semester, not in an apartment or on campus or any other normal option, but as a four month Airbnb renter living with said host in her house. I had no reason to expect that we would have the same coffee, Law and Order: SVU, and general love of food habits or that she would be so simply easily to live with. The amazingness of this luck (If you think it that. I don’t) is no small thing.
What’s the problem again? Oh yes, I was unaware of where I would be three months into the future.
This is when God laughs as me, I believe. I look back and see that He has literally never let me down, has showed me every step of the way which door to walk through. He’s made it, if not easy, clear, every time. Every. Single. Time. I don’t exaggerate. So if we’re looking for a pattern here, it’s that He’s faithful, and that His timing is better than mine.
And that I, so foolishly, choose at times to worry over the future when He’s given me such a beautiful present.
Such a beautiful present.
I think constantly of Jesus and those who don’t live their lives for Him and I wonder what they think of what I say and often I find myself asking myself the questions I imagine they’d ask me. (Might want to read that twice.) One is this: “Why should I assume your life is better because Jesus is in it? Maybe you’re just lucky. Maybe everything has gone your way. Maybe you wouldn’t be happy if things weren’t so good.”
Let me answer you. It’s because things haven’t always gone my way. It’s because though you may not know it, (and honestly don’t need to) some very big things have gone so far out of my way that I am convinced I would be on a very different path if Jesus wasn’t more important to me than those things. And it’s because of this: I am incredibly aware that my peace makes no sense, that certain things should swallow me whole. I know it. Other Christ followers have experienced this. “Joy in tribulations,” we call it. It makes no sense (Have I said that already?). “Peace that surpasses understanding,” we reference. How nice of God it was to pen that statement, so that when I’m all peaceful after something goes wrong, I understand why. Because God has chosen to surround me with it, as a parent does a child with a blanket. Because real love, that’s why. Because He’s real, that’s why.
If you’re wondering also if I just have some kind of magical willpower to enact the whole “mind over matter” thing,
My Father in heaven just knows me, really knows me, better than anyone else. He knows how to make the paths that I’ve make crooked straight, how to comfort me when nothing on earth can, how to speak to me so that I can understand, when to let me fall, when to save me from myself, how to call me back when I stray. He knows my talents, my weaknesses, when I can’t do it anymore. He knows when to make up for it, when to supplement my efforts. He knows, He knows, He knows.
And being known by Him is the greatest privilege on earth. To know that I will never hear those words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you,” is life-alteringly wonderful. My life doesn’t even make sense without Him in it. I don’t even want to imagine it. I literally can’t anymore. He makes too much sense of everything. It’s like logic doesn’t exist if I don’t take as a given that He was the Creator of it. His words are the lens through which I see the world.
Here I sigh. I do so because what I’m trying to say can really be said in so many fewer words.
If you already trust Jesus, for all of it: Can’t wait to experience paradise with you. Never forget that this world’s not what we’re living for. Never forget that “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Also don’t forget to stop and consider the lilies.
If you don’t trust Him: Part of me wishes I could convince you. But I can’t. God’s told me in His written words pretty clearly that this is all foolishness to those who don’t believe. But ask Him about it. And maybe that light will go on.
Oh how great that would be! Because this one never goes out.