A month, two days, and a few hours from now I’ll be graduating from college. All the 11 p.m. coffees and, subsequently, sleepless nights, will end when a woman reads my name shortly after 5:00 p.m. on May 9. There will be no more backpacks, no more citations, no more multiple-choice tests. I will, for the foreseeable future, conclude my academic career.
And, as I sit here in this transition, a full-time job offer recently laid in front of me and windows with potential apartments spread across my computer screen, I can’t help but think that you’re missing it.
I don’t know who you are yet; I don’t know that there will be a boy yet. But I know that, someday, when I talk about my tiny, 11th story apartment on East Delaware Street, you won’t picture the yellowish walls and Christmas lights. You won’t remember the broken elevators, the floral-carpeted hallways, and all the nights I, a naive, ambitious college student, sat in this apartment and imagined a handful of futures.
You missed the teenage years, the leaving home, the first job.
And, on May 9 at 5:00 p.m., you will miss watching me receive my college diploma.
While I’m mostly wandering into offices and classrooms feeling ill-equipped on these remaining days as a college student, I’ve found a semblance of a career path. I’m four weeks away from a degree. I’ve studied abroad, been inducted into honor societies, had internships. If you’re skimming down the bullet points on my resume, counting the accomplishments, reading about volunteer experiences, things seem to be going well.
What that serif text doesn’t tell you is that walking through each of those doors was usually difficult and uncomfortable and seemingly in disregard of every word that filled my before-bed prayers.
I’m usually reminded of my earliest dreams, the doors I thought the Lord would open, when I go back to my little hometown. I’m reminded of those dreams when I walk into my old bedroom; American girl dolls tucked in my closet. And, there’s this patch of grass. For as long as I’ve lived, there’s been this empty land, placed on the town’s main street between a sage-one-story and the home of an untamed pit bull. Every morning, when my mom would drive me and my sister to school, we would pass that little patch of overgrown grass. And, when I was little, face pressed up against the backseat window, I imagined building my own house there someday, taking my own kids to the grade school down the street.
I’m writing these words from my studio apartment in downtown Chicago. I can almost hear the Lord laughing.
And, as I mourn the loss of this life I thought I would live, I think about Ruth, a woman whose future certainly varied from the one she once foresaw. Following the loss of her husband, she followed her widowed mother-in-law to a foreign land, not knowing the Lord’s intentions or the provisions she would find.
But, provisions she did find in a man named Boaz, who told Ruth, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.”
Ruth didn’t know that this city would hold her redeemer, someone who would acknowledge and reward her for her loyalty and persistence. Following the loss of her husband, I imagine Ruth wasn’t optimistic about the prospect of a redeemer. I imagine her future felt unstable.
Following loss, it’s hard to imagine God has something to redeem broken plans.
I don’t know where you are; I don’t know when I’ll find you. I don’t know if a boy and kids and a white, picket fence in a little town are written in the Lord’s plans. But, in the midst of this transition, I’m holding tight to the his sovereignty, taking refuge under his wings as I maneuver through this life that looks so different from the one I planned. And though these commemorative events pass with a little hurt, and I’ll pack boxes of clothes and toiletries with some confusion, I know he redeems.
That patch of grass still patiently waits. That emblem of what I thought my life would be continues to grow and change.