Two weeks ago, I traveled to southern Tennessee to watch my sister graduate from college. Emilee graduated Summa Cum Laude from Lee University with a degree in Theology. Lee University is a small liberal arts Christian university. She loved the library and went to bed early. Her professors knew not just her name, but her boyfriend’s name and what was going on in their lives. Her graduating class was 470 people, which included the graduate students. They were gifted with Bibles, with their names embossed on the front, as a graduation present.
I did not graduate Summa Cum Laude or Magna Cum Laude or with any honors. Never figuring out quite what I wanted to study, I picked the easiest thing I think of and stuck with it – sociology. Indiana University is a large state school. If my professors knew my name, it was because they really liked me, but they probably couldn’t tell you much else about me. I planned weekly Cru meetings for 400+ people. Indiana University didn’t give me a tangible gift for attending the university, although I do count myself lucky to have attended.
Her college experience and my college experience were radically different.
True life: when things are different from one another, I am tempted to assign greater value to one. I catch myself doing this not just with college experiences, but other things as well.
Getting married earlier in life versus spending some time in your 20’s single.
Buying houses versus renting apartments.
Staying put versus moving to a new city.
Serving in vocational ministry versus working in the marketplace.
Reading nonfiction books to learn versus delighting in simplistic novels.
The list could go on and on and on and on.
And yet, in all of these situations, neither is better or worse than the other.
We can get ourselves in trouble when we think obedience looks the same to everyone as it does to us. We also place limitations on God when we expect that He will move in other people’s lives in the same places or the same ways that He has in ours.
I found and fell in love with Jesus at a party school. Not everyone has the same experience. I have to be careful with blanket statements about faith and public universities. What I experienced was not law. It was an example of God’s grace in my life.
I have watched my faith blossom as I wrestle through big life decisions as a single young adult. But, in no way does that take away from the gift of marriage in the lives of other young friends.
We cannot live the same life multiple ways. Who knows what my life would look like if I attended a liberal arts Christian college in the South. Would I have experienced God in the same ways as I did at IU? It simply does not matter. We will never know. And we don’t need to know. When we give into the Holy Spirit’s guidance and submit to God’s will, He shapes us through it. His leading leads us where we need to go.
God gives good gifts. They are given at the right time, with the full picture in view. No one else can see the full picture. Yes, others can give advice about what schools to attend, should you marry so-and-so, and if renting for another year is the best use of your money, but only God sees the full picture. He leads us in light of eternity.
As I get discouraged or start dreaming of a road not traveled, it is easy to idealize where I was not led and experiences I have not had. All I can do is receive what God has given to me with open-hands.
Receive the perfect gifts knowing they’ve been purposed by God for me, in light of where He is leading me.
Receive and give thanks.