On College and Change and Deep Roots

I have no idea how to preface this post, or even what exactly to title it.  I've been thinking a lot about seasons and change and the constant tension between looking to the future and running toward it while longing for things to stay the same.  Recently, I realized that I've not done any kind of writing on here about college and my experience so far and my thoughts now, halfway through, and so today I wanted to write about that, my complicated feelings about summer, and also talk about how different it all feels compared to this time last year.  Blame my intensely-analytical personality, but any kind of big changes or shifts lead to my doing a lot of processing, or whatever you want to call it – basically trying to sort out how I feel about those changes and understand how God may be working through them and in them.  Unsurprisingly, this usually involves quite a bit of writing, and I thought today I'd share some revelations and general observations that have surfaced during the last couple weeks.

I just finished my sophomore year of college.  Before I started, people always told me that "oh you'll learn so much about yourself in college."  I certainly have – and not all of it has been good – but beyond that, I have learned so much about God.  Without fail, I have come to the end of every semester brain-fried, nearly dead, and in deep awe of the provision of God.  It hasn't been anything miraculous or mind-blowing or even terribly obvious; in fact, God has shown me his love in the smallest things.  So often, it is simply in the abundance of grace he continues to give me when I look up and realize how far I've wandered, how much I've become distracted.  Because for me, I've found that being in college tends to make my focus small.  Of course, being focused is good and helpful, but sometimes my focus narrows so much that I only see the next deadline, the next day, or the next week, and everything else becomes blurred and eventually ignored.  I've been humbled to realize how often my vision of God and his purpose goes the same way.  It has only taken two years for me to figure out that keeping this balanced requires work and intentionality, and while I've noticed improvement, I think this is something I will have to constantly work at.

More than anything, though, college has revealed to me God's goodness, or at least, I have become more aware of it.  Especially during the last year, which was a difficult one for reasons I won't go into, he consistently showed me, in little ways, how much he cares for me.  And I know that he loves me, but the fact that he chose to show me over and over again just how much, was a gift I did not deserve.  Last fall, I showed up to one of my classes on the first day to find one of my good friends was in the same class.  Now she's a best friend and I am so grateful for that semester we had together.  Last semester, God gave me unexpected friends and unexpected gifts and unexpected encouragement on hard days.  The thing is, I've found that the more we are pressed, the more we see God and come to know him – his love and grace and goodness – as we see our own weakness revealed. 

This sort of segues into my thoughts about this summer and the transition from school.  Last year, the transition was not an easy one.  There were stressful things that came up after I no longer had piles of homework to distract me, several hard, unexpected things happened, and I felt unsettled, like I couldn't find my footing.  God used last summer and all of the difficult things to do some crazy things in my heart, but it was a difficult and painful process.  Part of the reason it was a hard season, though, was because it became clear to me how much of my security and reliance was placed in my circumstances.  I think this is easier to do than we'd like to admit – and it has been especially easy for me to do because I so enjoy being in college.  And so, last summer, when I began to be hit with changes and disappointment and unexpected stress, I became overwhelmed with a sense of being unmoored.  God felt distant and silent and I struggled to understand what he was doing.  By his grace, I chose to grow through disappointment and seek him even while he felt far away, and by the end of the summer, I recognized a deep longing for a sense of stability that was rooted in God, rather than in my circumstances or feelings.  At one point, I read Jeremiah 17:7-8 and realized how much I wanted what the prophet describes: "But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.  He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.  It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green.  It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit."  That revelation – that I was not as deeply rooted in God as I longed to be – prompted me to make it a goal for 2018 to become increasingly rooted in Christ.  My goals tend to be more like themes, but practically this has led to more consistency in my spiritual life.

On an unrelated note, this picture was taken
in Japan and I just really miss being there.
All of that to say (gosh, this is already long), my heart is at a very different place this year.  This change is still hard.  I like rhythms and deadlines and studying and I will miss friends, but I have come to understand that as much as change is uncomfortable and I would love it if good things stayed the same, God allows change and discomfort for a purpose.  Sidenote: that's another thing I've learned about God – he always always always has a purpose for everything.  Because honestly, when my circumstances change, and I'm suddenly out of school and not drowning in essays, or when I'm flying to another country for two months, I can no longer rely on what I know around me.  I have to depend on God and his constancy and faithfulness.  He uses change to change me, to challenge me, to draw me back to him, to chip away at my self-reliance and my stubborn independence.  He has a purpose here, in the in-between, in the days of working and mowing and reading and spending more time with my family.  He is moving and teaching and loving in the quiet.  He is revealing my sin now that I am forced to look it in the face (oof) and he is reminding me that he is the stream that never runs dry, the stream that will nourish my roots and make green my tree and bring forth fruit.

For now, for today at least, I can say that I am content here in the tension between.  My roots are going deeper.  My heart is quieter and has found a place to rest.  I am so grateful for last semester: for the gifts of God that surprised my weary heart, for his faithfulness, for him stretching me and teaching me, and loving me into understanding and trust.  I am thankful for what he is doing today and I am excited for the next few months.  Friends, he is never not good.

1 comment:

Amy Shaw said...

It sounds like you are dealing with these changes with much more wisdom and grace than I did at almost the same exact point in college... The summer between my sophomore and junior year was hard for me, dealing with the death of three loved ones. But I think it was after the summer, during my first semester of junior year, where something shifted in me and I felt myself growing more distant from God. I've never outright been rebellious and run hard and fast away from Him, but I feel I've never fully recovered from that time. How much smoother today's trials would be if I had been more content with the tension as you said it, more willing to wrestle with how God could seemingly take so much away and yet still be more than enough. I think that is the nature of Him that I have been slowly wrestling with these ten years since.

Basically, this post really encouraged me and I hope I can encourage you back by saying stay the course.

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