I believe there are two types of people in this world—those who take life as it comes, and those who have a plan for every single moment.
I’m the latter. For as long as I can remember, I always knew what I wanted to do and the steps necessary to accomplish my goals. A day didn’t go by that my nightstand wasn’t filled with 100+ page planners detailing my tasks for each day—some stretching out by the month. Until last year, I was the infamous “vision board girl” who had written plans for the next 5-10 years, with pictures next to them, detailing what everything should look like:
*Acceptance into this program here
* Making a certain amount of money there
* Moving to this particular area here
* Getting a degree from there
* Getting engaged to this man here
Yeah, I had it all figured out. And let me be clear, having desires and goals is not a bad thing. However, it becomes a dangerous thing when our plans are an underlying way of trying to micromanage our lives to the point where we’re not willing to deviate from them. This is a heart issue that says, “I don’t completely trust God.”
It becomes a dangerous thing when our plans are an underlying way of trying to micromanage our lives to the point where we’re not willing to deviate from them. This is a heart issue that says, “I don’t completely trust God.”
Fast-forward to applying to grad school. I sincerely applied to about five schools, and then applied to any other school that gave me a free application. Granted, I already knew which school I really wanted to attend—I knew people there, had family in the area, it wasn’t too far from home, and I already identified a church I wanted to join. Nevertheless, before I submitted each application, I prayed over them asking God to make wherever He wanted me to go clear, and to make complete provision.
To make a long story short, I did not get into my #1 school. Even though I qualified and have actually worked with faculty at that institution, there was a shortage of faculty in the department I applied for that year so fewer students were accepted. I got accepted into all the other schools and they offered some assistance, but the one school that gave me a GREAT offer was the one I convinced myself was a last resort. I didn’t know anyone in the area, it’s a totally different culture from what I’m used to, and I heard the people there were awful—but it gave me what I prayed for, which was complete financial provision.
I didn’t immediately accept this. In fact, I searched for numerous ways out, but as I continuously prayed for clarity, everything I did led me back to this school. I decided I couldn’t bum it at home for another year, so I accepted the offer. I mean, it couldn’t be that bad, right? The school has a great reputation for the program I thought I wanted (hint, hint) so I expected everything to work out. “Two years or less and I’m out!” That’s what I kept telling myself.
Here I am, three months later, and my life is swiftly changing. I am no longer in the comfort of the African American community I have lived in my entire life. Rather, I am labeled the “token black student,” expected to speak on behalf of my race, and required to quickly adjust in a culture where less than 2% of the population looks like me. In addition to that, I have not met anyone I would consider a genuine friend, nor have I felt enough at peace with any of the churches I’ve visited to accept being placed under “watch-care” (which, in my denomination, allows you to identify with a church, participating in worship, discipleship, fellowship, evangelism, and service, without transferring membership from your home church). The professor-student dynamics here are drastically different from what I’m accustomed to (and will not adhere to), and my passion for my program of study grows more stale by the second. I haven’t cried as much in the last three years as I have in the last three weeks.
Did I mention I absolutely dislike my program, and feel I couldn’t have chosen a more hollow path for a potential career? This is the field I told everyone I loved, so why am I not enjoying it? I thought I planned everything accordingly. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way! I’ve never felt so sad, unproductive, and useless in my life. There is literally nowhere and no one to turn to…but God.
I began to constantly pray, asking God, Why am I here? What’s the purpose? I’m starting to lose interest in my program and am so disengaged with the people here! Every class discussion seems to be about something that’s against Your Word. Every day feels like a burden! I need You to help me understand. What am I supposed to learn from this?
As I told God everything I was feeling (not that He didn’t already know) it was as if He said, I’ve been waiting on you to come to me. Why do you live as though you need to have it all together? If you had everything figured out, there would be no need for Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit. You were created for me, not for yourself. Let me fully reign over your life and I will show you all that you need to know, and you will experience life more abundantly.
Why do you live as though you need to have it all together? If you had everything figured out, there would be no need for Jesus Christ.
My blinders were slowly coming off. I had to learn (and am still learning) what it’s like to submit everything I planned to God, and begin trusting His plan—even if it means changing my desires to be more like His. It’s so much better and safer to follow His ways and rest in Him. Many of us are so guilty of accepting Jesus as our Savior but not allowing Him to be Lord. Once I acknowledged that there was so much I couldn’t do on my own and fully gave my situation to God, my heart and eyes began to open to so many of His promises. I felt less stressed and burdened, and more open and willing to move to where His Spirit is calling me.
I’m sure you may be wondering if I am still in the same graduate program. Yes, I’m still here, but praise God! I will not be moving until/if He clears me to. Until then, I’ve learn to do the following:
1) Steward the place I’m currently in,
2) Ask God daily if there is someone I need to minister to or share the Word with,
3) Ask God to show me what I’m supposed to learn while in this place,
4) Do everything (assignments, teaching, speaking to people) as unto the Lord and in excellence—which I’m still learning.
In closing I would like to share some Scriptures that have been particularly meaningful for me on this portion of my journey—I pray they may bless you as well:
Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.
Matthew 16: 24-26
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life[a] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
Kim Nicole is a young native of South Carolina and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in English. She enjoys freelance writing, spoken-word poetry, and creating personal-use videos as gifts.