At the start of my last semester of college, I sent in what I thought would be my best paper yet. It was for my advanced composition class, so I wanted the professor to know that I was indeed advanced. It was beautifully laced with headings, and each paragraph argued for the thesis. The grammatical errors were few. The sentences sung off the pages.
Days later, my email lit up, notifying me that the grade for my paper had been added. Confident in the A that I would receive, I opened to the website.
Only to find a C.
If you haven’t picked up on this yet, I really like to write. It is an ability I often pride myself on, a task in which I am confident. So receiving a C really stings.
Immediately, I ravaged the web page to find the reasoning behind the grade. What could I have possibly done wrong? After reading my professor’s explanation and sipping on a cup of coffee to calm my nerves—because coffee does that for me—I sat back down to look over my paper. In the comments, my professor said, I appreciate your organization, but through trying to order everything so perfectly, you forgot to analyze how each section affects the other. Sometimes perfect organization is not the right order.
I giggled. Order is my thing. I looked back over my paper and realized that I had tried to fit every point in a perfect, two-paragraph-sized box. I neglected to let the words flow musically into and on top of one another. I organized my arguments in my own way. I should have let the instructions take control. It wouldn’t have looked as perfect as I wanted, but it would have been a better paper.
Two days ago, I sat across a table from a friend who has been one of my greatest joys in college (shout out to you, Kenz). As we chatted about the past year of my life, the last year of college, and as I encouraged her on how she should approach her final year of college, some words slipped out of my mouth.
“I would have never ordered this year in the way it has turned out. But thank God that He knew better than me.”
As I insinuated in my previous post about transitions, we human beings tend to be a constant state of change. In the moments where life seems stagnant, we are looking to something else. When we are in school, we are constantly being told to figure out our next step. When the kiddos are little, we are saving for college. When we are single, we think about our future relationships. There is always an ebb and flow to our lives. They are short. They are ever-changing. They are filled with new people by the day.
Upon entering college, I had a plan. Just like my paper, it consisted of pretty boxes and perfect organization that I could control. (My room, on the other hand, consisted of no organization whatsoever).
I would take my classes. I would spend my time doing speech. I would learn as much about writing, researching, and public speaking as I could through this activity. I would spend my freshman year learning, my sophomore year beginning to take on some leadership roles, my junior year would be filled with academic and competitive success, and my senior year, I would be helping run a church ministry and focusing on achieving a job afterward. I might have a boyfriend or two in between. I might even get married after college. But I would first finish my degree and implant myself into my own field. If he fit, he fit. If not, he wouldn’t get to continue on with me.
Two months into my freshman year, my whole world was turned upside down—in such a beautiful way. I met a boy.
This boy would not overtake my plans, but he would be the reason my plans were overtaken. Here is how it actually went down:
I took my classes. I spent my time doing speech. I learned about writing, researching, and public speaking. I spent my freshman year learning and getting to know the man who now leads me so beautifully. I spent my sophomore year fighting pride and learning to live in relationship with a human being—a really sinful but really great human being. Then it happened. He told me he wanted to marry me, but he did not feel that he needed to wait. We would get married a year before school was over. That summer, I wrestled with the Lord over whether or not it was wise to commit my life to someone while I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. He told me yes. He told me to go. I was still terrified. My life no longer fit into the perfect box. It would be ridiculed by people who thought I was being a foolish girl in love with a foolish boy. I spend my junior year engaged and fighting my need to prove myself to everyone. I spent it unsure of how Austin and I would make money, unsure of where we might live, but I was positive that the Lord was leading us in this way.
All my order—my perfect organization for what I thought would be a picture perfect life—got turned upside down. Not in a bad way. Oh, not at all. It was scary though. My nerves were rattled wondering if we were really doing the right thing. The enemy whispered lies into my ears over and over, telling me that I was just being silly. He told me that we would end up bankrupt because people aren’t supposed to get married until after college. He told me that Austin’s degree would get us nowhere and that mine was even more worthless.
Beloved child of God, your world will, too, get turned upside down. Your plans will get shattered. You will be asked to wade into uncharted waters. The enemy will whisper lies into your ears. He will tell you that the perfect boxes that society gives us are right. That they are good.
But while the enemy is whispering, Jesus will be calling. He will be all around you while the enemy can only be beside one ear. Listen to the voice that is louder, the voice whose Spirit lives within you.
When I went back to rewrite my paper, I carefully studied my rubric once more, only to find that I had completely missed the point of the paper. I had been so focused on making my paper pretty that I had lost sight of the goal. I unlaced the headings. I mixed together all my argumentation. I finished with something that I would not have written on my own volition, but that stated a much stronger point and highlighted my strengths better than I could have ever done on my own.
I wonder how often we miss the point of the lives we lead. How often we try to lead a pretty, Facebook-perfect life. I wonder how much we look to people who look like they have everything together, all the while forgetting that everything in this world is messy.
Christian, unlace your life.
Let’s stop organizing everything into our perfect squares that fit into faded Instagram filters.
Let’s recognize that Jesus often messes with our plans because He holds the answer key. It may not look like what we want it to. It may be really hard. It could look like being single forever. It could look like trusting a man when everyone before has let you down. It could look like moving to a new city alone. It could look like jumping into ministry when you had a career path planned out before. It could be starting a family before you planned or not getting to start one at all. Whatever it is, however, our ideas are being torn apart, we already have the rubric: His voice, His word.