August 18, 2014

40 Below

I stood in the doorway of the cafeteria, petrified, unsure of what to do. I was a fresh arrival at Southern Adventist University, a week late into the winter semester. Sure, I knew how a cafeteria worked, but this was larger than the one at my academy, and it had more options.

“Don’t be afraid, Ashlee,” came a friend’s voice from behind me. “It’s just a cafeteria.”

“I’m not afraid,” I said, watching to see what he would do as he entered.

I have always approached life like that: hanging back until I’m sure I know what to do or until I know I won’t look stupid. I have this fondness for the predictable and a love for the comfortable, yet somehow I keep finding myself facing the unknown.

Waiting for a Prince

After hearing alumni joke about “Southern Matrimony College” or “Social Advancement University” for years, I started to believe that marriage was a threshold to be crossed prior to or right after graduation.

Unfortunately, a post I found on Pinterest could easily sum up my relationship status: “No, I’m not single; I’m in a long-distance relationship because my boyfriend lives in the future.” I cracked up laughing when I first read it, but it wasn’t as funny when I thought of it three weeks after my college graduation.

Although my own love story was still unwritten, I seemed to be a lucky charm for my roommates. Three years ago Amanda got engaged. Two years ago Amy got engaged. Last year Tamara got engaged. So I’ve seen the marriage thing come true—just not for me.

Though I appreciate being single, I still wish to fall in love.

I wish I knew when it would happen, but I don’t.

It’s not something I can predict.

Wondering About the Future

As I graduated from academy, I was completely sure that I was going to teach English when I “grew up.” I was going to help high school students understand Shakespeare, and I would work at a boarding academy. I had it all figured out.

I spent a year as a student missionary teaching high school English and discovered that I love seeing people’s eyes light up when they learn something. I grew in lots of different ways that year, and I came back more determined to become a high school teacher.

Two years ago, however, I found myself frustrated and bored in my education classes. Someone asked me what I was planning to do with my life, and I answered, “Teach.”

I don’t plan to do that forever, though, was my immediate thought, which surprised and confused me. It had seemingly come out of the blue.

Was I just frustrated with trying to balance between being an English major and being a secondary education major? Or did I actually doubt my career plans?

I didn’t know.

“God,” I prayed one morning, “I don’t know if this is frustration or actual doubt. If You don’t tell me somehow, I’m just going to forge on despite how I feel.”

That very same day I was having a conversation at lunch with Alan, a friend with whom I’d been a student missionary. I hadn’t told him or any of my other friends how I’d been feeling about my current major and career path. He surprised me by asking, “Why are you an education major again?”

“I don’t know,” I answered.

His unsolicited question felt like a confirmation of my growing doubt, so I visited Career Services, took aptitude and interest tests, and prayed some more. Finally, over Thanksgiving break, I made the decision to drop education.

The Monday after break, I got online and followed through on my decision by dropping my education major and adding a journalism minor. Strangely enough, I felt as if I had done the right thing and was excited about the new path God was leading me down.

Now, two years later, I’m still not entirely sure what my profession will be. I’m applying to graduate programs, but I feel as though I can’t answer the simple question “What are you going to do?”

I have only guesses as to what I’ll end up doing.

It’s something I can’t completely predict.

Trusting in His Promises

So I’m standing on the threshold of my adult life; I am once again petrified. I thought that people went to college in order to get answers, but I seem to have more questions now than when I started school.

However, I trust that Jesus knows the answers to questions I haven’t even asked yet. Yes, I haven’t fallen head over heels for some guy (yet), and yes, I don’t know exactly where I’m headed after crossing the stage and collecting my diploma. But I know that Jesus knows what He’s doing with my life.

In fact, Jesus promises that those who trust Him will be “like a tree planted by the water” (Jer. 17:8). Wherever Jesus plants me and whomever He plants me with, I can trust that He has my abundant life in mind.