College is known for being one of the first big struggles the young adult makes it through. The exact makeup of the struggle looks different for everyone: classes, relationships, paying for the degree, living independently, higher academics, discerning life’s direction, etc. I have three years of college down and I’m not quite halfway to a diploma, and yes, it is a discouraging fact at times.
But I’m satisfied with everything that has led me to the point I am at now. I don’t spend time thinking about how I would do it over, if I had the ability to change the past. And I’m very happy to be this far. Whenever I feel frustrated by how slowly I’m “succeeding at life” by the world’s standards, I remind myself of two things. One, God is working through this, no matter how much I don’t see it or how much I don’t believe it. Two, God doesn’t forget what He’s doing, or stop to think of what’s next. No, He’s not just moving me along like a domino in Mexican Train. But He does see the end of all things, so much so that Jesus knew from the early days of his ministry that He would be back one day to rule a new earth.
If God created us to reflect Himself and His glory, and to live in communion and relationship with Him, our way of life can look drastically different from what everyone else imagines it to look. Sure, Jesus said that would be the case, (as we read from the Gospels), but I never thought enough about what that would look like for me personally. It can be hard sometimes to translate the picture in my mind of Jesus telling people “Don’t conform to the world. Leave everything and follow me. I don’t give like the world does.” into a life that literally lives that out in the present time.
The world would evaluate my life so far and tell me I’m failing because I’m behind where I’m supposed to be, according to one thought line. Or else I’m doing it wrong, according to another thought line. I should have been in at least one relationship by now, if not married. I shouldn’t be taking so long to get a driver’s license, for heaven’s sake. I should have my B.A. by now. I should be able to make it longer than a year and a half of school before taking time off. I should be doing better at making money than I have been. Things should just be different from how they are. It’s a lot to keep up with and while there may be a couple good points hidden in all that, to seriously consider it all can be wearying, and worrying.
When I evaluate my life alongside the purpose of glorifying and communing with God, I see myself thriving. I’ve done my best to align my decisions in life with principles I know have been outlined in Scripture. I’ve taken time to discern where the Lord seems to be leading me, and the rest has fallen where it might. It has not all made sense, that’s for certain. The next five steps I saw in one direction may suddenly disappear, only for three new ones might appear in another direction, but however much it jostles me, I’ve continued to go forward. God has never left me, and never stopped giving of Himself to me. I haven’t stopped growing yet, and I think my understanding, knowledge, and/or awe of Him has only increased. My continued prayer is simply that all of this would reflect back on Him and multiply His glory.
There’s a song I returned to the other day that talks about God’s light shining through our pain to make it beautiful. “When your light shines through/ we all look like stained glass windows to you” (Jon Guerra, “Stained Glass”). I think this thought can be applied further to when life doesn’t look like it should, according to us or the world. When we remember the Lord ordains, and is still ordaining, our lives, it no longer looks like a mess of this and that, but something stunning and glowing. Up close, stained glass can look like a dim collection of misshapen, colored glass pieces spread together, but with a few steps back and a light from behind, it becomes a shining masterpiece of beauty, enhancing the look of the glass and the light source.
College may be a current struggle in my life and the lives of others, but on the whole and down to the details of what make it a struggle, it’s only a portion of the beautiful stained glass picture of an individual life. Because the Lord is Who I concentrate on, rather than measuring myself to everyone “right” in the world, I have hope for my future, I have a certain confidence about my decisions, and I have overall peace about my life. This world and whatever I achieve here are not my end nor my goal; I look to something further beyond and seek to serve the Servant of All.