Toward the tail end of last summer, I worried quite a bit about finding a job and making a living. At the time, I only had one job as a pizza cook and since it was summertime, I was only working roughly 10-15 hours a week at minimum wage. It worked out to about $360 a month, which is nowhere near enough to pay the typical rent in Eugene. Thankfully, though, I was living with a friend… for free.
Since then I’ve acquired a second job and have been able to work both for a total of somewhere between 30 and 40 hours a week. It’s enough to get by, for sure. What has kind of been bugging me lately, though, is the fact that I didn’t need a college degree to get these jobs. I was hired for work experience and not degree knowledge. It’s kind of a drag when you consider the ridiculous amount of student loan debt I now have. It almost makes you wonder if going to college was a benefit at all.
If I had not gone to college, I would still be in Lincoln City working the two jobs I had back in high school and not really striving for anything more. I probably wouldn’t be writing and I know for a fact I wouldn’t have as many books as I do. But I also wouldn’t have gone on the journey with God that I did. Going to college caused me to think for myself and take responsibility for things like rent and phone bills and electricity bills and food. But on the spiritual side of things, faith was no longer a surface level image I carried from Sunday morning to Sunday morning. It’s real. It’s tangible. It’s my own.
When I think about the reason I came to college, I used to think it was to get a better job – and that’s still partially true. But now that I’ve been out of college for eight months, I realize it was because God called me on a journey. And that journey has led me here: An English grad who’s in love with reading and writing. I wasn’t this way before; back in high school I was the golfer. After every day of school, I’d go to a driving range and hit several buckets of balls. Afterward I would head over to the putting greens to spend another 2 or 3 hours working on my putting stroke. And yet I haven’t touched my clubs since last July.
What am I going to do about the $40 million of student loan debt, though? (No, it’s not $40 million, but it sure does feel like it.) That’s a very good question – one that’s been on my mind for the past couple of weeks. Yeah, going to college and experiencing God’s work outside of my old comfort zones is great and all, but I’ve got a really high tab to pay and two part time jobs won’t cut it. And yet, it’s my experience in journeying with God that has taught me the most important thing: He’s going to take care of me.
I get this inspiration from Proverbs 12:11, “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.” I emphasize the words “works his land” because I think something quite simple is revealed here – something that teaches us about how God works. You see, this Proverb doesn’t say, “Whoever works land that he attains”; it’s talking about land that one already has. I think this means, then, that God wants us to work with what we’ve got and He’ll take care of the rest.
I’m no farmer, but I imagine the work farmers do is extremely difficult. And I think God wants us to be aware of the hard work we have to put into cultivating what we already have. I think He wants us to throw aside all the distractions of our day, all the fantasies of being rich and famous, and put our hands to the plow to cultivate what we’ve already been given. Or, as we golfers like to say, “Play it as it lies.” It’s our way of saying you have to work with what you’ve got; you may never have the ideal playing conditions.
What does this mean for me, my college degree, and my two part-time jobs? It means I keep showing up to work, working hard, and writing whenever I can. It means continually exercising every skill I’ve ever attained on the off chance that I’ll need it for whatever lies ahead. In golf, it doesn’t mean anything to have a great putting game if you never reach the green. Likewise, I can’t just exercise my writing skills and throw away my cooking skills or my customer service skills or my skills with retail items. I have to improve them all. I have to work my entire land.
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:12-13