A letter to Graduates: Expectations & Stones
“He said to the Israelites, ‘In the future when your descendants ask their parents, “what do these stones mean?”’ tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.”’ –Joshua 4:21-22
I took a gap year after graduating from Hope College in order to pursue my own expectations. I expected to obtain a full-time. I expected to have resources as a result. I expected to stay single. I expected to maintain my exact group of friends. By wordly standards, these are all healthy expectations. However, my motives behind them were impure and sinful; I expected to succeed in extremely specific ways because, I wanted to need no thing or person by any means whatsoever.
I expected a full time job in order to ignore the perpetual, undesired call I felt towards seminary. I expected immediate, ample resources (as a result of the aforementioned full time job), to pay off student loan debt, and to keep up with the social and financial demands before me. I expected to stay single not for the intrinsic God-given gifts of singlehood, but because of fear, pride, and convenience. Walking with another person in that way requires bravery, humility, and great intention- in some ways, singlehood is safer. I expected for my close group of girlfriends to remain my community, because that was within my comfort zone.
But the Lord kept me humble, and He kept me needy.
I never found a full-time-salary-and-benefits job, but I have worked with kids, teens, art, and The Church in unexpected ways that have fulfilled His call towards seminary. I often made financial sacrifices to make ends meet, but I have not once gone hungry, missed a loan payment, or been without shelter. I was not planning on having feelings for a good friend, but The Lord has taught me more than I ever thought possible through a wonderful, encouraging, Godly man. And probably most importantly, The Lord has placed me in a body of believers at church, work, and otherwise. This is not to say that college friends are no longer close, but they are admittedly, no longer primarily “my people”. By His grace, I have gleaned from mentors, walk alongside youth, and was given the honor of serving that community in ways that college didn’t allow time for.
When I look upon reminders of God’s providence, I think about how the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry land. These reminders serve as my “stones”, allowing me to regard the moments where He has parted the waters and prepared the ground. However, I believe that after graduating, we have to learn to trust all over again in lieu of the many changes before us. Things like financial security, marriage, singlehood, graduate school, or careers tend to morph into checkpoints on some sick, personal timeline. We forget that resources, marriage, singlehood, education, or vocation are callings to passionate servitude, and that they were created to reflect the Kingdom.
In my selfish expectation, I forgot these things. But in His grace, He was faithful to my dreaming by presenting dreams that I didn’t even know I had.
It is easier to selfishly expect the unfolding of my will, than to pray in expectation of God’s. However, we are classic comedic fools when we strive for our own expectations in place of seeking His faithfulness. In seeking, we’re compelled to hold our breath and trust that things are beyond our control. Yes, loosening our grip seems as though we're allowing ourselves to be swallowed whole by the river of our expectations. The paradoxical truth, though, is this: it’s the very thing that paves the way for walking on dry land.
- Erin // @drews_barrymore