A good friend of mine wrote a song titled “Letting Go.” I heard her sing it twice and thought the chorus was beautiful and simple. Of course, it helped that she has a voice that will melt your heart, but that’s another story. The song she sang has been echoing in my mind lately and honestly, it’s been keeping me afloat. Even though my graduation day is still a little ways off, sometime in December, I still think about things like finding a job, making ends meet, and maybe – hopefully – finding a wife. All these things you think about when life takes a major turn can make you worried. That’s where I’ve been lately.
Probably the hardest thing for me to do is give up certain things to God. I think we have the natural inclination to try and control things, at least I know I do. I like to have things done my way; dishes rinsed and reused from the dish washer, toilet paper rolls replaced by the person who used it last, don’t leave your laundry in the dryer for a week, and if you make a mess, clean it. There are probably others that I haven’t noticed (because I’m better at noticing the speck in another’s eye than the plank in my own), but those indicate well enough that I like to have a relative control over things. And when it comes to future plans and knowing what I want to be, I get a little freaked out.
This past month I’ve been toting around my LSAT study guide with the good intention of studying it. June 7th is when I drive up to Corban University in Salem to take the LSAT, the test that basically determines the likelihood of me getting into law school. For the past six months I’ve been focused almost entirely on law school – at the very least some sort of higher education beyond the undergrad degree. The decision I’ve been wrestling with is what I love more: literature or arguing. If literature, then I’d pursue a Masters at the very least, possibly even a PhD. But if arguing, then probably law school, though I could argue quite a bit in getting a Masters as well. And there’s even a third option in my mind: writing a book (finally).
Not knowing what it is that God wants me to do is humbling. The tighter my grip is towards one thing or another, the more painful it will be when God rips it from me if He doesn’t want me to have it. And because I don’t want that to happen, I’m in that very uncomfortable position of surrendering my will up to God so that His will would remain sovereign. Essentially, I’m having a hard time letting go.
Just a few nights ago I was reading through Donald Miller’s recent book, Father Fiction and after closing the final page, I wanted to write my own book about growing up without a father. When I watched Star Trek the next night, I wanted to open up my LSAT study guide and go through it all (don’t ask, Star Trek just gets me). And as I sat at my computer earlier tonight typing up a blog about a poem I read for my 20th Century Literature class, I thought of pursuing a PhD because I just love literary criticism. Thinking through these three desires makes me picture three different careers and when I come to God to ask which one I should pursue, I get kind of nervous when I don’t hear an answer.
It all continues when I think of the other future plans I have for my life: finding a wife being at the top of the list. It just seems like that’s what you do when you graduate college and figure out what you want to be; you find a girl who makes you stutter and you marry her. But that’s not always how it goes with God. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” (Matthew 16:24). That denying-myself part – that surrendering of my will, that letting go – has been tough to do. It means studying for this LSAT test not fully knowing if I’m going to be a law student; it means continuing to write even if I’m not going to be an author; it means exercising my literary critic abilities even though I don’t know where they might take me; it means trusting God – the Author of our faith – to write my story instead of myself; it means letting go.
I can’t remember how the lyrics to my friend’s song go, but I’m sure this is what she saw when she wrote it. She must have seen the beauty of Jesus leading her through the darkness, through the rough terrain, through the stormy sea. She must have known, deep within her heart, that no matter what happened to her she was going to be taken care of. And this must be why her words have been rattling around my mind these last couple of days, because Jesus wants me to see Him leading me too. He wants me to know and trust with every bit of my heart that He has things under control, even if I don’t see what they are. All it takes, as my friend’s song teaches, is for me to let go, to give up control to God. No, it’s not like He’ll strap some strings onto me and make a puppet out of me. But He will drop enough hints for me to move forward with, to picture something clearly and pursue it. He will lead me along enough to get to the next chapter instead of letting me bail out halfway through.
Obviously the next step is working through all the challenges and trials that God’s novels bring. But those come at a later stage. It’s not wise to worry about how you’ll play the 9th or 10th hole when you’re still playing the 3rd or 4th hole. And though I don’t know which hole I’m on right now, I know it’s a difficult one, one that needs to be played with patience. It’s a stage in God’s novel where I have to let go… again. And there’ll be another letting-go stage. But as Jesus teaches and as my friend’s song indicates; just because we let go doesn’t mean God isn’t still writing our stories.