Take a Breath (No, Really..)

Things I wish someone had told me, by Hannah.

The present doesn’t look anything like I dreamed it would.. but I remember how I got here.  I remember days pouring through college catalogs as if my life depended on it, and the stomach-turning shakiness that accompanied test taking: the PSAT, the SAT, and other academic and college placement tests.  I remember the constancy of stress, the lack of sleep, and wondering whether I would ever get any farther than the dreams inside my head.  So often it seemed as if the future depended on my own strength, or on the places I could go: and not on the person (God) in whom place and purpose coincide.

Much of life is spent looking forward.  This is especially true for the dreamers, the visionaries, the idea-people and the creative, the artists and the inventors.  It is true of high-school students preparing for college, and for those of us that are farther in our studies.  Most people are gifted less with retrospect than the ability to dream.. but it is this shared forward-motion that is important to our growth, development and spiritual well-being.  However, at other times such as when it is accompanied by stress, being future-oriented can function as a hindrance to our fully enjoying the present.  This is the dark-side of the dreamer- like the dark side of the moon, it doesn’t get mentioned much.

I am now a 20-something, I don’t always get enough sleep and I still stress out about stupid (and not-so-stupid) stuff – though the future is probably a little less worrisome and tests don’t make me shaky the way they used to.  However, there are some things that I wish someone had told me when a few years ago (or maybe they did, but I was too busy worrying to listen..).  These thoughts are also still valuable to me in the present.

Don’t believe you know exactly what you’re doing.  Also, don’t believe that you *need* to know exactly what you’re doing.  I can guarantee (okay, not really but it sounds about right) that 82% of all human beings are not certain how to best meet their potential.  It doesn’t help if people frequently ask you what you want to do or be.  At first it may seem that your answer is supposed to be something chipper and inspiring, like “win the Nobel peace prize!” and the older you get, the more people will be satisfied with answers like “be able to get a job when I graduate!” (it’s assumed you should become more cynical as you grow older.  Never believe it’s true – but feel free to admit that it does make it easier to answer the do/be questions).

You may even feel guilty if your answers to the do/be questions change.  Don’t.  God designed us with elastic, not concrete minds, and sometimes it is necessary to grow in different directions.  You are not having a personality crisis if you no longer want to be a librarian in Alaska who works part-time at a coffee shop (or a lion-tamer, or…).  Interests change.  Callings clarify.  You can investigate and explore different options, you can commit to some and not others- but you don’t have to have everything figured out beforehand.

Don’t think you’re going to become successful without making any mistakes.  That is not an excuse for making more, but a reason to know how to handle them when they do.  Acknowledge that mistakes are going to happen, and try to make the most of things gracefully.  In such situations, this verse may be helpful –

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.

– Proverbs 24:15, NLT

It’s okay.  No, really.  Take a breath.  Life includes struggles, but if our lives become characterized by feelings of defeat and anxiety, something has taken on too much importance in our lives, whether it’s test scores, grades, scholarships, careers, people-pleasing, or other modern-day idols.  God did not intend for people to live on the edge of burnout.  Sometimes He waits until the last second to answer prayers, but His methods are supposed to inspire greater faith and confidence in Him, not doubt and further frustration.  It’s not supposed to be easy.  It isn’t going to become easy. Surrendering your heart and soul never is, but you may as well start the process now.  The world does not revolve around individual success.  It does not even revolve around success, period.  It revolves around God and His love, and only in reference to His love do our lives carry lasting significance.

Here’s how things are.. trusting God has not given me a 10-year plan for the future.  It has not immediately and indefinitely solved all my problems.  It has not taken me to the places I thought I would go, and it has not brought me to the people I thought I would meet.  But, each day, it has given me what I need, and what I want and need are often two very different things.  It has been hard, but it has been much more satisfying than I could have imagined, designed or dreamed up while pouring through college catalogs, thinking the future depended on my own abilities or foresightedness. 

I do not have the most extensive experience of all college students, and my life plan probably differs significantly from those of some blog readers.  I don’t claim that my life is better or worse than that of anyone else.  What I do know, however, is that it’s okay to take a breath.  You do not have to relinquish all of your abilities, interests or talent in order to allow God to have greater presence in your life. Believing that He is in control does not mean becoming powerless, helpless and incompetent, and trusting Him also does not mean He will tell us exactly what we should do next (high school students: don’t throw away your college catalogs quite yet).  Instead, sometimes trusting Him comes in the form of taking a breath and believing that He is greater than our problems, our plans, and even our test scores.  The future matters- but what matters even more is living filled rather than empty lives.

It’s okay to look around as well as ahead.

To find out more about Hannah K., visit our writer’s page.

Art Credit: Pinterest

6 comments

  1. I think you’ve been listening in on my conversations lately. This is such perfect timing as I am stressed with scholarship wonderings and the tomorrows that I dream of. While reading your post, I was reminded of the fact that God knows where he is taking us and he will prepare us adequately for whatever task he has predestined beforehand for us to fulfill. Thank you for this post! It’s easy to lose sight of what is most important and get sidetracked with the useless things we worry about. Definitely a daily practice to reorient the way we think Heavenward.
    Thanks again, hope you have a wonderful summer!
    -RuthAnne

    1. RuthAnne, I am so glad that you enjoyed reading this post! I’ve been in your shoes so many times, and I hope that God will relieve some of the stress for you, and help you to trust Him with the whole future. I know that He will bless you greatly for it. =) I hope that He continues to put reminders in your path of how much He cares about you, and that you have a great summer as well!

      – Hannah K.

  2. Yes. 🙂 Your words were the most comforting reality check today, Hannah. I feel as though the real battle is against tunnel-vision, sometimes. Trusting that “failing” in the small things will *not* derail God’s ultimate design. How presumptuous is it to think we have to be perfect–that if we are less, we can possibly make Him less sovereign? Thank you so much for the reminder.

    1. Ditto on everything! I agree- we can never make Him any less sovereign. You are welcome, and thank you for commenting! ^_^

      – Hannah K.

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