Today, I came home to find a calligraphic parcel in the entryway. The return address was that of a childhood friend living in Bristol, VA. She’s the kind of friend that feels more like a family member. Even when we don’t stay in touch, I never question the status of our friendship. Our birthdays are just days apart. Our families went on summer vacation together every year. Meeting when we were three, we don’t have many memories that don’t include the other.
At the moment, our lives look quite different. She’s been married for four years and is currently raising a one-year-old. I moved to Europe three years ago and never went back. There are aspects of both of our lives that both of us desire for our own. And yet, we know these are the lives we have been given and are meant to be living.
Since graduating three years ago, I can’t help but think back to my post-grad goals and expectations for my life. Who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do seemed to be within my grasp. I was told that I could be and do anything I wanted. But since then, I’ve learned the surprise of disappointment and the mystery of unplanned adventures. I’ve discovered courage I never knew existed. I’ve realized dreams I never even had before. My questions have outnumbered my answers. I’ve tasted the bitterness of goodbyes and the sweetness of new beginnings. Nothing has been what I planned. And for that, I am thankful.
But some nights, I’m haunted by the what-if’s of the past as I imagine a life the result of decisions I made differently. What if I had gone back to the states to pursue my Master’s instead of spending the last year in language school learning German? What if I had said yes? What if I had been braver? What if I hadn’t moved so far away? And it doesn’t even matter that I’ve hiked the Alps or vacationed on the French Riviera; I can’t help but wonder at the possibility of a life lived differently.
But as I celebrated my 25th birthday this last week and saw the eclectic collage of people and stories around me celebrating, my questions became irrelevant. In their place came one question: What if this year hadn’t been what it was? My only anchor when the sea of questions rises is the One I know who is sovereign and holds my life together. I’m comforted that Christ controls my life instead of me. Regardless of what I do or what happens to me, it doesn’t surprise Him, and He even promises to turn it into my good.
In regard to future dreams and plans, I often ask Him as the disciples did: ‘When?’ ‘How long?’ ‘Is it at this time…’ With great patience and care, He answers, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority” (Acts 1:7). With Peter, I look at those around me, comparing and wondering: “What about him?” But Christ reminds me: “What is that to you? You must follow me” (Jn. 21:22). At the end of my life, it’s not going to matter how successful in I was in the world’s eyes, how many friends I had, or how far I advanced in my education. The only thing that will is whether I proved faithful to Him, the One who has my life. It is by His grace alone that I strive to please Him, following Him step by step into the unknown that is His post-grad plan for me.
words by Danielle Germaine and photo by Abby Melrose