Today marks twelve years since September 11, 2001, but the heaviness, lack of understanding and even frustrations seem to be just as present in the hearts of Americans today as they were twelve years ago. Today we walk a little heavier, remember with clarity and have a perspective that focuses outside of our daily routines, jobs, and tasks.
Most people can tell you where they were, what they thought, and how they felt on that day twelve years ago. Personally, I remember sitting in my fourth grade classroom and watching the teachers cry and whisper in the hallway. I didn’t understand what was happening. After school that day, my dad and I went to go feed our goats like we always did, but that day I looked him in the eye and asked him why he was so sad. He told me again what happened and that sometimes it’s easy to know that God has a plan, but hard to understand what it is in a certain moment. I didn’t understand.
Today, I still don’t understand. My fiancé is currently deployed to the Middle East and much of it is a result of what happened that day and in the days after. As a fourth grader, he decided that day that he wanted to serve our country. Today, that sacrifice is a reality for us both. However, there are many days that I still don’t understand.
In my lack of understanding, there is one truth that gives me unending hope and joy: God understands. As I search in the scriptures I see that Job, Joseph, Paul, and many others didn’t fully understand each trial that came, but what they did understand was that God, in writing a beautiful meta-narrative, has sculpted a master plan that ends in eternal victory.
God has a plan in our lack of understanding and He has a plan in the midst of our pain. Today, I pray that we trust that while sin has left this world broken and painful, we hope in the plan of a God who has written each intimate detail out until completion.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).
The first week of school is a weird thing when you aren’t participating in it for the first time in about 17 years. Everyone is still buying books, figuring out their schedules, and taking first day of school pictures, but I’m just going to work like I always do on Monday mornings.
On Twitter, the hash tag #postgradprobs has been appearing on my feed recently. In reading some of the tweets I’ve seen echoes of some my own feelings as well as revelations of what life is really like after graduation. Some tweets hold excitement over new jobs, new towns, and new friends, but the majority express feelings of uncertainty of the future, lack of money, longing for “the good ol’ college days,” missing friends, living at home and an overall dislike of work and life.
So what should postgrad life look like? Are we really supposed to be finding success, chasing our dreams, and finding our soul mates just three months after graduation? That’s what we went to college for, right?
After thinking and praying over these questions, God kept pointing me to Ecclesiastes where Solomon writes “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (Eccl. 3:1). Afterwards, Solomon lists pairs of activities, and then he states, “He [God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Eccl. 3:11).
Postgrad life is just another chapter that God is revealing in His perfect timing. And like the other chapters, this too will be beautiful in His time.
In the beginning of each new season, it is so easy to get frustrated with the present and desperate for the past. However, let this serve as encouragement to find joy in the present even if your dreams aren’t coming true, you job isn’t perfect, and you haven’t met the man of your dreams. Let it also serve to remind you to rejoice with those going through the stages you just went through and not to look on them with jealousy or contempt.
Each new season of life presents opportunities to grow, learn, share joy, and embrace the adventure that God has so perfectly written for us. Don’t become so caught up in “postgradprobs” that you forget to enjoy this new chapter.
At a training event for a mission trip I recently went on, one of the sessions had to do with the way that people manage trials. The seminar was based upon the idea that people are either “spewers,” which means they feel the need to share every emotion, feeling, and thought that crosses their mind, or they are “stuffers,” which means they internalize all feelings and fail to share them with anyone. The goal was to recognize which one you are, and then seek out ways to achieve more of a balance between the two.
Well, if you asked anyone who knows me remotely well, they would tell you that I, unfortunately, am a “stuffer.” Being a first child, I have always been independent; and being a perfectionist, I have always felt the need to conjure up the strength to deal with problems on my own. After thinking and praying through these inclinations, I recognized that my tendency to “stuff” is in reality sin and pride.
When I choose to internalize my problems, I am essentially saying that I have things in control and don’t need help. When in reality, neither is true. I am so thankful that they aren’t true, and that Christ, in his infinite grace, forgives me and gently reminds me of His control and His help that is readily available.
Colossians 1:17 states that “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Things are not held together in my feeble attempts to be in control; instead they are in the control of the God who was here before this world was even created. Recognizing this helps to realign my perspective to one that is eternally focused.
In praying through my tendency to “stuff,” I also was reminded of what true community is. We were never meant to walk through this life alone; in fact, we are called to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ,” seen in Galatians 6:2. How can we bear one another’s burdens, when we don’t know what they are?
I have been blessed with truly amazing friends and family, and life together is sweet, no matter the trials, if we are walking through them together. I am still a “stuffer”, but I am truly trying to become open with the people who care about me the most.
In Christ, we are not called to “stuff” or to “spew,” but instead to live life with others by being honest and drawing strength from our God who knows our every thought and feeling despite if we “stuff” or “spew” them.
Deployment. I still remember the first time I heard my fiancé tell me that it was coming. His unit had been told to be ready because they were needed: Afghanistan was calling.
The next months passed dreadfully slow and yet painfully fast. Each moment was held onto like it was the last, and prayers were prayed that moments together would never end. And yet, like we knew it would, they ended, and he left.
December 19, 2012 was one of the hardest days of my life. As a fiancée, how do you send the man you love to war? And more than that, as a Christian, how do you do it with peace, trust, and faith that our God truly is in control?
Through the rest of that day I remember somehow trying to combine feelings of pride and love with abandonment and loneliness. It was in those moments that God spoke the loudest. I heard both reassurances of His faithfulness, and gentle urgings to be content in every circumstance as Paul describes in Philippians 4:11-13.
I remembered the story of God calling Abraham to take up his son Isaac to sacrifice him in Genesis 22. I imagined the feelings of despair Abraham must’ve been feeling. I imagined his deep desire to do anything but what he was being called to do. I imagined the fear he would have experienced from letting go of control. But, I saw his determination towards obedience and the Lord’s faithful provision.
I remembered Jacob and his longing to marry Rachel in Genesis 29. I contemplated what he must’ve experienced during the 7 years he had to work for her hand in marriage, and then the feelings of betrayal when he was given Leah. I contemplated the love that he had for her that made the seven years feel like just a few days (v. 20). And, I imagined the joy he must’ve experienced the day that Rachel became his wife after such a long time of waiting. Through it all, I saw the Lord’s faithfulness in sustaining Jacob.
Finally, I heard the cry of the Psalmist in Psalm 73:25 saying “Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nothing I desire on Earth but you.” I recognized the voice of the Lord drawing me to use the time of deployment to make this my cry. There can be nothing; not my fiancé’s homecoming, not his safety, and not our marriage that I desire more than our God.
It was in these stories and verses that my hope began to build. I wasn’t alone, I hadn’t been abandoned, and the God of Abraham and Jacob would sustain me and my fiancé as well.
During deployments, the physical war is fought overseas, but an internal war is also fought in the hearts of those left behind. Each day is battle; a battle for joy, contentment, and faith. Some days the battles are won, and other days, the battles are lost. But, we press on knowing that our God has won the war.
My fiancé and I have 2 ½ months left until he is supposed to return, and so we will keep fighting. I will keep working for the Lord, choosing joy daily, and praying for my fiancé’s safety, his spiritual growth, and his opportunity to be a light in a dark place.
The word deployment still sends stings of pain deep into my heart, but it has no longer defeated me. I have chosen to fight.