My congratulations, graduates! Aren’t you relieved, excited, and terrified? So was I.
Maybe you — like it’s etched on your heart — know exactly how you want to serve and grow in this big world. I admire and appreciate you.
But maybe you feel like everyone owns a 5-year plan, life verse, and scholarship except for you. Perhaps you fear someone jumping out from behind the grad cake table, quizzing you on your weakest subject and sending you back to high school.
Your friends are moving on, and so is childhood. You wish you had pomp for your circumstance.
Graduate, the reason you feel overwhelmed, though you might not know it, is not because now is when you must decide the rest of your life — it’s simply the first time you have to decide what to do with the next part of your life.
When I ask my graduate friends their next steps, I try to phrase it, “What does your summer look like?” or “What is something you’re interested in learning more about?”
Because I remember the pressure and hearing questions as, “Do you even have a plan?” and wanting to hide because I had no clue.
Know that however the questions at your grad party are framed, they’re well-meaning. As part of the local church, we’re interested in how we can relate to you and support you.
And we know God is sovereign, and He is the only One who knows the future.
Can you imagine our grandparents…graduating from high school and people asking about their life plans? Do you think they ever could have dreamt of their twists, and moves, and you, their grandchild? They had no idea! But God did.
Here’s the unique reality of graduating high school: ahead lies a stretch of segments linked together, reaching into who knows how many years, until you are settled into the work, place, or community you hope for.
Hard and beautiful transitions will become familiar, times between different jobs, semesters, spaces, and seasons.
Decisions. You could be a nanny in Ecuador or you could take a general math class. No wonder you feel stumped at the crossroad with a million opportunities.
How does one carry the weight of such decisions?
The Identity Foundation — Who You Are In Christ
During one such in-between season, I grew discouraged. I had just spent a year at a Bible college with the word “undeclared major” on my forehead. I achieved a random collection of credits and now needed a summer job. Not even McDonald’s called me back for an interview. I remember laying on my bedroom carpet with my Bible, praying and shedding a tear or three.
Somewhere in the middle of Philippians 4, where comfort and conviction tangled, I saw a key truth.
After all the beautiful commands in the chapter — about supplication, rejoicing, and even thinking — were the words:
“Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
I started breathing in relief. Why was on I earth? To bring glory to God. He would equip me for such a purpose He declared Himself for me. The burdens tumbled off when I gazed at the eternal picture. It’s not about me, it’s about Him. I’m just a sojourner here.
It can be challenging when you don’t have a label, platform, or job title. I’d always like to have SOME kind of verbiage to make me sound like I have a general direction or fallback career. But, ultimately, we’re His, defined by incredible titles in Ephesians 1 like: predestined, adopted, chosen, redeemed. Recipients of grace and an inheritance. The power which raised Christ from the dead resides in us.
Instead of being identified with words like “transitioning,” remember we’re transforming in His likeness. Instead of “between,” take comfort we’re becoming like Him by beholding Him. This brings glory to His Name.
The Practical Foundation — How You Live In Christ
Hopefully, your heart is full of worship right now, at the thought of our gracious Lord, who pursues glory for Himself, using ordinary us!
But . . . what do we do? What does it look like to be obedient next? Do we apply for a passport or pay for the math class or what?
A dear friend loaned me Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something, an excellent read. Caught between worlds, this book helped me realize I shouldn’t freeze up because I don’t know what decision to make.
“Perhaps our inactivity is not so much waiting on God as it is an expression of the fear of man, the love of the praise of man, and disbelief in God’s providence.”Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something
Someone wise in my life said something like, “God can’t steer a parked car.” Yes, of course God can do anything. But the point is, we need to be mobilized! “The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
It’s not what you do as much as it is HOW you do it for God.
So my humble advice? Fill the tool belt with skills! Knock on doors. Serve the church until it’s clear what your spiritual gifts are. Shoot an application out there. Say YES to out-of-your-comfort zone ventures! Pursue community. Clean your room if it’s messy. Save money for a car, or wedding, or mission trip or a house or give it away! Channel your interests and passions into a plan that makes sense for who God made you to be. Chase after knowledge, either academically or informally. Use this time to implement the spiritual disciplines (prayer, Bible study, etc.), to carry with you in your next chapter.
He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much (Luke 16:10).
Your church is cheering for you, too — especially in this weird time in history when the way forward seems blurry! We’re here to try to be gracious like He is, give you wise counsel, and serve with you. Many times, your church family will have insight into your gifts and a network of ideas for you. Ask a wise mentor out for coffee and ask them your questions. “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22).
One thing is for certain. God doesn’t hide His will for us — it’s in the Scripture. He desires us to bring Him glory.
So take courage; your next steps will be worthy ones if You offer them to God. And He sovereignly will guide you as you acknowledge Him (Proverbs 3:6).