Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I'm back!

On Sunday I graduated from college.

That's kind of crazy, y'all.

People keep asking me how I feel, and I don't really know how to answer. How to capture the culmination of four years in one brief response? How to recount the myriad ways the Lord has been faithful above and beyond all I could even have thought to ask for? How to express the sense of accomplishment and loss that comes with such a major transition?

Right now I can't answer those questions - it's all too close. But a few weeks ago I revisited some old posts and stumbled across one that I wrote on August 27th, 2015, right after returning to Wheaton for my junior year. As I read, I was astonished at how beautifully what I wrote then speaks to where I am now, so I want to share this post again with you.

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"I Want"

"Great people don't do great things; God does great things through surrendered people." ~Jennie Allen

It's the beginning of a new school year. As a junior in college, I find that I and many of my peers are thinking hard about what we want - what we want from community life, from our studies this year, and, in the not-so-distant-future, from life after college.

To be honest, I want a lot of things, ranging all over the place in level of importance.

I want to have a fabulous apartment that people feel welcome in.

I want to enjoy being a college student - not get so swamped in work that I forget to appreciate the gift of being a full-time student with no more pressing responsibilities. 

I want to get decent grades.

I want to read every book that peaks my interest in both the college library and the public library.

I want to study in Oxford.

I want to live in Germany.

I want to get an interesting job.

Eventually I want to get married.

The list goes on and on.

I want, I want, I want.

But, as pressing as these desires may seem, none of them reach the core of what I truly want.

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection of the dead. 

I want to live a life that is Christ.

I want to know the POWER of the Holy Spirit.

I want to die to myself and my desires so that I may fling myself without reserve into the life God unfolds for me, knowing that every step of the way He is drawing me closer to Himself, who is the source of fullness of joy and eternal life.

How do I prepare for this kind of life? More pressingly, how do I live it now - a life poured out as a living sacrifice to God, not a living witness that in spite of my words to the contrary I still think of myself as number one?

How do I keep my sights fixed on things above, where my heart is hidden with Christ in God, and not on earthly things while still affirming the goodness of His earthly gifts?

How do I learn to live prepared to lay everything He has given me down in a heartbeat and cling only to Him?

How do I know when to lay aside my plans and open myself to the wonder of His Plan - and yet not be paralyzed when I don't receive my own personal cloud like the Israelites had in the wilderness?

How do I love with Christ's love?

These are the questions of a lifetime. But as I head into this next school year, I want to start working them out, prioritizing these fundamental desires over all other superficial, circumstantial ones. I want to do this now, while I am still in college. Before I settle down and form habits that get me stuck in an earthly rut of selfishness and independence instead of the heavenly freedom of complete dependence upon God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. ~Romans 12:1

For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. ~Philippians 1:21

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ~Colossians 3:3

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control. ~2 Timothy 1:7

Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

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As I read back through this, I was overwhelmed by the Lord's lavish generosity. He has indeed used the last four years to shape me and set me on a trajectory of prioritizing the truly important - of fixing my sights on Him. He has drawn me close to Himself in ways that it never occurred to me to ask for, laying the foundation of trust that will enable me to walk forward in complete dependence on Him.  

And in the midst of that He has also granted me so many of the other "wants" - some expressed in this post and others not. Of the things I listed above as superficial wants, all have been realized except reading every book in the library (a pipe dream) and getting married (there's still plenty of time for that).  That's wild.

So I guess the answer to the question "Hey college graduate! How do you feel?" is: I'm excited, and a little bit nervous, and absolutely, utterly overwhelmed at the lovingkindness of the Lord. The same questions that I asked at the start of my junior year figure prominently in the set of questions I am living into now. I have no idea what this is going to look like, but whatever comes next, the Lord has promised to be with me, and He is faithful. 

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