Milling through my mind this last week and a half has been thoughts about the future. I registered for the graduation ceremony this June, got my cap and gown, and just noticed tonight some of the final adjustments to my degree audit. It indicates that on the 13th of June – less than two months from today – I’ll have my degree and be done with college.
What separates this transition from the other life-altering transitions I’ve had in the past is that there isn’t anything planned for the fall. Earlier this year I had decided to earn the best grades possible and later to apply for admission at Western Seminary, but I’ve since changed my mind. It’s still something I want to pursue at some point in my life, but not for next year. I need a year off from school to live in the “real world.” I need to breathe.
But what will I do? That’s the question I have yet to answer and throughout the last few days, it’s been kind of worrying me. For the first time in nearly 17 years I won’t be in school; I won’t have the next grade waiting for me in the fall. For the first time since I’ve been living in Eugene I have no living plans for next year – not even an idea of who my roommates will be. Yes, that’s right, in about two and a half months I’ll be moving out of my apartment at Ducks Village and… God knows where I’ll be after that.
I have some ideas in mind; move down to San Antonio and live with my brother for a while, move up to Portland and pursue a job that utilizes my degree, or just stay here for a while and see what happens. But none of these stand out as the idea that God wants me to play out; they all seem to have an equal amount of possibility. Some nights I wonder if I’ll even have something planned by the time I move out of here.
What has always eluded me in my moments of anxiety (especially about the future) is the presence of God. I should rephrase; what has always eluded me in these moments is my lack of recognition of God’s presence. When I or any of us worry about tomorrow, we tend to overlook the God who is with us here today. This is the God whose Son taught us not to worry about tomorrow for, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” (Matt. 6:34). Granted, it’s a little different in my case because I kind of need to plan a little bit beyond tomorrow, but the focus here isn’t so much about careers and jobs as it is looking to God as our provider. What Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 isn’t about how we’ll ask for our dream jobs and God will give them to us; it’s about how we’ll ask to be cared for and God will do it.
With the Masters tournament being last weekend and my roommate playing a lot of Tiger Woods ’08 for Xbox, I’ve been thinking a lot about golf. Coincidentally, I came across a verse that actually helped me when I golfed competitively back in high school: Proverbs 4:25; “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.”
You have no idea how applicable this is to golf.
First of all, the second-worst thing you can do on the golf course is dwell on the hazards between your ball and the hole. For instance, if I’m 155 yards away from the center of the green and there is either a bunker or pond (or both) 10 or 15 yards in front of the green, then my shot will have to carry at least 145 yards. Once I decide my yardage, my next move is to focus on the target area I want to hit – not the bunker or pond. If I were to do the right thing by making all my measurements and grabbing the right club but failing to focus on my target, I would waste all that measuring prior to my shot and probably wind up in that hazard.
Secondly, assuming I did focus on the target area instead of the hazards, then the final thing I need to make sure of is to hit that little white ball. “Let…your gaze be straight before you.” If I don’t make sure to swing well enough to strike that ball the way I intend to, then any distance-measuring will prove worthless. Once again, I’ll probably end up in that hazard or out of bounds (even worse).
As you can see, this one little verse did so much for my golf game. It kept my approach simple: acknowledge the hazards, focus on where you want the ball to go, and then focus on making a smooth swing to strike that ball as well as you can. In my final term of college, I’m beginning to revamp this three-step mentality in order to apply it to my distant tomorrows: acknowledge the difficulties, decide where I ultimately want to be in life, and then do the necessary steps in order to get there. And yet, even though this is a good mentality to have, I don’t think it’s quite it.
Solomon here isn’t talking about careers and jobs and résumés; he’s talking about following God. He’s talking about a lifestyle that exists within this world yet retains a focus beyond it. These Proverbs, these wise sayings of Solomon (and a few others), aren’t outlining seven simple steps to success; they’re guiding us through the process of forming Godly characters. Why? As Jesus says in Luke 13:24, because it’s a narrow gate. And since it’s a narrow gate, the verses following Proverbs 4:25 say, “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” Like the most important thing in golf is to hit that ball as best as you can, the most important thing in our walks with God is to diligently follow Him and His ways.
We talked about this at my men’s group on Thursday evening. Tony referenced the situation I’m in (graduation) and asked everyone how they’d deal with the questions I’m facing. One guy said exactly what I’m talking about here; focus on faithfully and prayerfully following God this day. Your career may end up being something completely opposite of what your degree is, but one thing is guaranteed: If you’re truly following God, you’re going to enjoy what you’re doing no matter what it is.
If there is a message I could give to myself, it’s simply this. I could write out all my potential-career options and see which ones are realistic and which ones aren’t (I’d refuse to cross out PGA Tour Pro), but God wants one simple thing: My attention, here and now. He knows what my heart desires: He wrote that in the script. But there are a few scenes of the play to act out in order to see those desires through. Or in golf terms, there a few holes to play (and a few shots to take) before seeing the final score.