What does God want me to do with my life, where am I supposed to go to college, what occupation do I pursue, who do I marry?
I feel like these questions plague so many young people in the church, all waiting for a clear and explicit path from God. I remember being so frustrated in high school and college because I felt like God had given me a dream but no direction to pursue it. In middle school, God opened my eyes to the lives of missionaries overseas and it's like it seeped into the depths of my heart. I couldn't shake it, I dreamed about it and talked about to anyone who would listen. Even though some people looked at me like I was crazy, I knew that was what I wanted to do with my life. But I was young and I felt inadequate. The more negative responses about this dream from my fellow Christians, the more I doubted my ability to pursue it. So I decided it was safer to marry a missionary, than to be one by myself (that takes all the heat off, right?!). I decided this was a good life plan and surly God would be pleased if I married a missionary!
So as I was approaching college age, my parents started asking me where I wanted to go. They weren't against my marrying a missionary, but since I was single with no eligible missionary on the horizon they thought it best to pursue a degree. They were very wise in this matter and my mom, especially, helped me to see my gifts and interests and I decided to major in Interior Design. I prayed through the whole process, and God narrowly led me to one school, Salem College. In case you haven't heard of it, Salem is a small, private, women's college (how God intended to send me a missionary husband there, I wasn't sure). I'll stop here to offer some advice on hearing God's direction, sometimes He only gives you one option... go with that one!
As my second year of college came to an end, I found myself entering Junior year alone. Several of my Christians friends and biblestudy members had transferred and my best friend got married and moved away. I felt like I was having to start freshman year all over again. New roommate, new friends, and new biblestudy; I was dreading it to say the least. At a church event that fall, one of the guys asked me how my summer had been. In a moment of shear honesty, I told him that it had been rough because I was dreading coming back to school, knowing I would be alone. I had even tried to transfer, but God wouldn't let me leave. I will never forget his response, "Wow, #reallifejonah." And he walked away, literally just walked away, chuckling at his joke! I was shocked, like mouth open shocked. As someone who grew up in church, you might as well have just called me Jezebel! How about Ruth, or Paul or someone who was pushing through a tough time, being strong?
But Nope, I was Jonah. Haha, I was steaming the whole biblestudy, I couldn't tell you what the lesson was on, I didn't hear a word. I went home mad, called my mom and told her about his rudeness, probably texted my best friend about it too. But the more those words sat with me, the more I saw the state of my heart. I was bitter, feeling lonely and a little dry. It was a desert season; I didn't like meeting new people, or planning biblestudies that no one showed up to. My heart looked a lot like Jonah's, dried out, lacking grace, tired, and wanting to be somewhere with a little more hope. I didn't want to be where God wanted me, I was completely #reallifejonah, the worst missionary in the bible!
Once my eyes were open to my bitterness, I really asked God to show me why He wanted me in Winston Salem and what I could do for Him there. I have to say that prayer changed the second half of my college experience. It was no longer about me and what made me happy, but about what brought glory to God. He made me into a better friend, leader, and most importantly taught me how to grow and love exactly where He places me. We don't get to choose our circumstances, but we can choose what we do with them.
Too often we are so concerned with what God's net step is for us that we miss out on what He is doing exactly where we are. My time in college wasn't about graduating, it was about the people in my life every day for four years. It was about waitressing on the weekends and loving my coworkers. It was about learning what skills God wanted to develop in me. It was about seeing God's heart for all people, not just the ones in countries far away. His mission field is every single heart, and I didn't have the luxury of not caring about the people in my life until I went on a "real mission field".
Knowing our calling from God isn't having a 5,10 and 15 year plan. It's about seeking what is important to God and making it important to you. He isn't hiding important details about our futures from us. In fact, He has told us everything that He wants us to do: love Him, love people, be kind, show grace, live in the joy He offers us, help others, care for orphans and widows, and tell the world of His great love. That is our calling, and it's a beautiful picture of life, mostly because it brings glory to our creator. Don't let bitterness and reluctance fill your heart, but rather trust the God who called you!