Over a year later, I can still remember the panicky feeling that arose when someone asked me the question, “And what are you doing after graduation?” Before applying to the Fellows Program, I usually mumbled a non-committal answer or nervously joked that I’d like to know that answer myself. I said anything to get past that moment, to avoid thinking about the uncertainty of the future.
One year later, I am faced with similar questions yet again. “What are you doing after Fellows?” “Where will you go to Church?” and “How long do you plan to stay in Nashville?” are only a few of many. Some I have answers to, while others I haven’t begun to ponder. It seems I have almost come full circle. My life of being a fellow, living with a host family, and taking classes is about to shift into full-time work, independent living, and learning to keep up with my new friends post-program. I am once more facing a time of transition and change.
So what do I do with these anxious feelings and unanswered questions? My natural tendency is to alternate between two extremes. One extreme is obsessing over the future and seeking some program or path that will provide me with answers, stability, and a comprehensive plan for the foreseeable future. Another extreme is escaping the question altogether and striving to ignore my feelings without acknowledging or dealing with them. Neither extreme allows room for God. This is when I need to dwell on one of the most valuable lessons the Fellows Program has taught me.
Every Monday afternoon we attend a leadership luncheon with a Nashville local. This individual could be a teacher, banker, freelance writer, CEO, or one of many other things. Over lunch, these people share their vocational journeys and how they ended up at their present jobs. Despite the extremely varied skills and callings these people have, their stories always display two common threads: an indirect path that held many surprises and ultimate submission to God’s plan. Though their stories always impress us, they also contain unexpected twists, sorrow, and failure. “I never imagined…” is a common refrain, followed by “But God was faithful.”
I joined the Fellows Program partly because I wanted to discover a linear path to what my life was meant to look like. Instead, it taught me that this linear path does not exist. What does exist is our all-powerful and all-knowing God, who uses every zigzag in our story to lead us where God wills. In many ways, this might make us feel like we are going in circles. However secure I feel at the moment, there is always change and uncertainty ahead, with the potential for fear and chaos. Doubts and mistakes I thought were in my past will resurface, and I’ll have to learn again and again to lean into the Lord. What I’ve learned through Fellows suggests that this circular motion acts more as a spiral: moving round and round, but ultimately winding me closer and tighter to God.