I’ve been mulling this over a lot since I graduated last May–how my college education has prepared me for life, and other ways in which it fell short. Please understand, this isn’t a “poor me, I ought to have easy lessons handed to me” sort of thought process. I take full responsibility for my life and my personal development. However, since my university was a Christian school that sought to equip students spiritually as well as professionally, I hold the leadership there to a higher standard than I otherwise would. They have the power to influence many thousands of young adults, so their teaching had better be sound.
It is the practice of this college to invite all manner of (mainly Christian) big names to the campus to speak, three times a week. The majority of these were intent on stirring up us young folks–talking about the glorious struggles in missions work, victories for Christ in the corporate world, and the general high emotion and excitement of living for God. It’s a tactic I’m familiar with, having grown up exposed to and participating in many youth groups and camps. I’m also quite certain some of these leaders came very close to equating numbers–people converted, money raised, buildings constructed–with God’s stamp of approval on a given ministry. We are young, we are the future of the Church! We are able and energetic, so seize the day! While I do believe we ought to be living for God while we are young, what these messages did not prepare us for was the much greater part of Christian living–that is, the drudgery of days unmarked by success. So many of us fall away because life after school isn’t what was “promised.”
What of we who finish four years of college and become mothers right away? What of we (myself included) who have difficulty securing a job at all, let alone one which matches our God given abilities? What of we who manage to find that elusive career, and find that it’s not quite so easy to keep a Christian witness in that place? What of we who have little excitement day to day and much seeming failure? You know, like Moses keeping sheep for forty years, or Elizabeth, who waited for a son until she was advanced in years. Until then, what did they have to do? Live righteously. Walk blamelessly. Live each, individual, boring hour until the time God had appointed them for great things. And Elizabeth’s “great thing?” It was childbirth and child rearing, long after she had the youthful energy for it. It was mentoring and encouraging her young cousin, Mary, the mother of Christ. Moses, of course, had his “mountain top” experiences, but even after placed at the head of a great nation there were the long days of plodding on faithfully in spite of many inglorious struggles. I’m sure I’ve often imagined him, standing straight and resolute, dramatically upholding the newly-written law of God. I cannot say I’ve (until now) pictured him with a pebble stuck in his sandal, hot and dusty and exhausted from walking all day.
To those recently graduated from college with a heart for the Lord, full of passion and feeling like they’re floundering: you are not the only one. This is life, normal and natural. It’s all these ordinary days which we are given that make up a faithful Christian life. God knows, I also have been and will be discouraged. In some ways, I’m learning that God’s calling is the same for every Christian–be obedient. In others, it differs vastly–be a stay-at-home mother, be a missionary, be a rocket scientist, be the best McDonald’s drive-through worker you can be. But God forbid that I’m a missionary if God has called me to obediently be a McDonald’s drive-through worker. And guess what? Both of those specific callings are going to be filled with ordinary days, even miserable ones. Christian motivational messages don’t really prepare you for that. There’s no pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, only the daily seeking of God and offering up your life, moment by moment, to His kingdom.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)