We’ve previously talked about failure and how it can make God seem distant and elusive, as well as how it can afford you the opportunity for some perspective as well. What I want to talk about now is what happens next. When we find ourselves lost and without direction, we cannot simply stop walking. Time continues to move, we continue to age, our obligations do not do us the favor of ceasing to exist; we must do something. So let’s talk about what that something is. I will of course continue to use my own denial from graduate study as the example.
Suddenly finding myself with an extra year of “free time,” I also suddenly found myself with a fleet of new worries: how will I earn enough to pay rent and feed myself, how will I maintain the abilities I gained in college, what if I don’t get a job that I enjoy, what will I do to keep my insurance, etc. etc. And I had no answers.
But I needed to eat.
So I tutored. I’ve worked as a tutor since high school, so that seemed natural. But it didn’t pay the bills enough. My professors graciously offered me a job grading papers and TAing for their classes, so I snapped that up as well. But it still wasn’t quite enough. One day at church, I saw an announcement saying they needed childcare workers for Thursday mornings. It didn’t pay much but it would take me out of the red, so I signed up for it with no experience or even an extreme desire to help kids.
But it turned out okay. I didn’t hate it (for the most part), and I even learned some valuable things through my time as a childcare worker. And later, when a job at the SB Museum of Natural History opened up for children’s camp counselor over spring break, I was slightly more qualified for a job at a place where I actually wanted to work. That spring break job turned into a summer job, which led to a different position at the Museum, where I am now working part-time for the next year. Without really any extreme effort on my part, my financial worries were taken care of at the same time as landing a job I really enjoy that does work out my physics muscles. All it took initially on my part was a willingness not to stand still, a willingness to wander.
Now, obviously the point here is not that I am an extremely qualified, competent, and attractive person (whoops, got carried away). I am again not advocating The Power of Positive Thinking. I know that things don’t always work out this nicely. I’m just noting here that my small steps in an unknown direction, based solely on the fact that I had needs to take care of, led me indirectly to a destination that was by and large acceptable.
It’s not grad school, no. And if I had had my way, I would be doing problem sets and research right now. But I didn’t have my way, and standing stationary and stagnant was not an option – at least not one that I could have survived. I have come to believe that even in apparent abandonment, God is present and allows us to take undirected steps on our own to learn that things don’t have to go exactly according to our plans to go according to his. Wandering is an important part of choosing God’s path over ours, and in the next installment of this short series, I’ll talk about what happens when God finally does make his plans known to us.
For now: What do you think? What is our responsibility when we find ourselves directionless? What is the significance of these times?