Friday, November 18, 2016

You're Not Behind


"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Jeremiah 29:11

What do you do when it seems like everyone is ahead of you?

This is a question I have struggled with constantly these past couple of years. As long as I can remember, my greatest desire for my life has been to get married and be a stay at home mom. My career goals have changed a million times and then some. I have watched these past few years as siblings and close friends enter serious relationships, get engaged, get married, start families, enter their dream careers, or any combination of those things. Through all of it, I have yet to even go on a single real date or have a clear and consistent career aspiration. I have watched my greatest dreams for myself happen for everyone except me. As a sister and a friend, it is important for me to be genuinely happy and excited for all of them...and I honestly am. Yet it would be a lie if I didn't say that every time I see the hand holding, the rings on their fingers and the lovey-dovey photos on Facebook, the happiness I feel is accompanied by deep pangs of hurt and even emptiness. You see everyone making the progress in life you so desperately desire, and you feel behind. Those same people try to assure me that I'm young, I don't need to worry about it and I'll find someone. Yet most of those people met their significant others before they were my age, so their comfort doesn't have true understanding behind it. It's a difficult place of life to be in.

I used to ask God why He was punishing me this way...and sometimes, on bad days, I still do. Why is He making me watch everyone around me find love and begin families and jump into long-desired careers while I'm so far behind? Why is He giving my greatest dreams and desires to everyone except me? It seemed so harsh to me...and it sometimes still does. I have come to a point where I honestly don't see anything ahead, which on its own is scary. Add to that seeing your family and friends' career aspirations coming to life, along with them having fulfilling romantic relationships and starting families of their own, my own life feels even more empty, and sometimes even hopeless. Yet I press 'like' on the mushy photos and gush at the engagement rings with a smile that is half-genuine and half-forced, feeling guilty that my loved ones' happiness causes me pain.

So what do you do? What do you do when it feels like you're behind? What do you do when it feels like you're losing? What do you do when you watch your own dreams come to life for everyone else and not for you? What do you do when you feel like you're a captive to hopelessness and your life isn't going anywhere?

Yes, I have God, and God is all we need. Yet let's be honest, those people who have love and careers around me also have God. It's not about simply having God, it's being complete in Him as you are. Some people dream of marriage, some don't. Some people who desire to get married and have families don't get one or either of those things. Some people end up with the career they've wanted their entire life. Others change careers even in adulthood. What matters is being able to say that if I never get married or if I never have kids, I'll be ok. I know I can have a fulfilling life without either of those things. I can be happy in a career I never thought of having. Am I 100% there yet? Honestly, no. I'm working towards it every day. Being ok doesn't mean I'm giving up. I have time to meet someone, get married and start a family...it may not be in my own planned-out timing, but it could still happen. Yet my life won't be any less amazing or fulfilling if I don't get those things. God will reveal His plans for my career. It may not be what I had been so set on, but it will happen. With every new engagement, wedding, and pregnancy announcement, I feel a little less inner turmoil than the last. With every long-dreamt career goal that comes to life, I feel a bit more genuinely excited. I am beginning to honestly trust God with my own unknown future. I am slowly learning to feel complete, even in my unknown. I am not less whole being single than being married. There is no less fulfillment in a career revealed by God on the brink of graduation (or even later) than one dreamed of for many years. I am not less than because I don't have those things as early as my friends, or because God's plan is different for me than it is for them.

The point is simply this: never stop dreaming, but be ok if your dreams don't happen the way you thought they would. Know that in God, you are enough in your own right because having a spouse is not what makes you complete, it's your identity in Christ. Your career goals may change a million times, you may not have a specific career in mind at all, but God will reveal that part of your path in His timing. Just because you see nothing ahead doesn't mean that there is nothing ahead. God planned a life for each of us greater than any adventure we have read about in any book. Those who have found their career and found love earlier in life are not ahead or any better off. Don't feel as if you are falling behind, or God wants to bless them more than you. His plan for you isn't the lesser one, it is simply a different one. Dreams and desires are important, but the greatest dream and desire we can ever have is to seek God whole-heartedly and to do God's will in our life, no matter how much it may differ from our own plans. That is where true fulfillment is found.