A Note from Mary Margaret West: It’s that time of year! Seniors are approaching graduation, and it’s a great time for conversations about the future. I hope Lindsay’s post today is helpful to you!
Maybe it’s just me –
But when I ask for prayer requests around this time of the year, I receive one answer repeatedly: concern for the future.
Credit the yearbook order forms at school-
The graduation announcements in the mail-
The aisles of dorm room décor in stores-
Or, truthfully, credit the constant question our girls hear (even within the church) “What are your plans following graduation?”
Before you squirm too much in your chair, let me assure you that I have asked many versions of this question. My intentions are not to call you out for poor conversational skills, but to remind you that words have the power to point heavy-laden souls back to the weight-lifting Gospel.
The problem with this question is not in the surface-level request. We want our girls to be dreamers, to know how God has uniquely gifted them, to think through how they want to serve the Kingdom after high school. No, the problem is not with the question itself, but with the underlying value-system this question can represent:
WHAT YOU PLAN TO DO IN THE WORLD IS OF GREATER VALUE THAN WHAT GOD PLANS TO DO IN YOU
I know. Now you can squirm in your chair. Rest assured, I am squirming too. We would never tell a girl that, but sisters, if we aren’t proactive in battling this idea, I am afraid we will perpetuate it. This is the message pounding in their ears from the statements of society.
Society dangles the promise of a happy future if you just know your dreams and map out a proper plan to accomplish them. Often this message doesn’t sound inherently bad, which is why our girls may not even realize its ill-effect, until the burden on their shoulders feels like a massive weight.
Pursuing our dreams is not the problem; prioritizing our plans over the Lord’s plan is the problem. When we only ask girls about their plans for the future, we can inadvertently cultivate the pride of articulating our own plans over the humility of listening to God’s voice for direction.
Pride tells us that we can plan our course; humility reminds us that the Lord’s purpose prevails (Proverbs 19:21).
Pride tells us that we must be in control of our world; humility reminds us that Jesus holds everything together (Colossians 1:17).
Pride tells us we must prepare and position ourselves to make a difference in this world.
Humility reminds us that God, at just the right time, sent Jesus, who left His high position, to prepare a way for us to know the Father (Philippians 2:6-8). These young women need to remember – we need to remember – that our identity comes from this relationship with the Father, not anything we might accomplish in the world.
WHAT YOU PLAN TO DO IN THE WORLD IS NOT OF GREATER VALUE THAN WHAT GOD PLANS TO DO IN YOU
Sisters, reordering this statement is not discouraging. It is freeing! It is freeing now, as girls feel the pressure to plan their futures. It is freeing for the future, when the first detour blemishes their prearranged route.
Not long after graduating college, I faced my first detour. I remember the tears and confusion. I was the girl clutching my hand written directions in desperation as the GPS screamed “DETOUR! EXIT HERE! EXIT HERE!” above my objection. I still cannot give you every answer to why my career path took a detour I never expected (and truthfully has never returned to my proposed course). What I do understand now is that God is after my heart over my to-do list. What I know now is it is far too easy to leave high school with a strong resume but a weak heart. What I know now is that God is not afraid of the detour that leads us to a stronger faith and deeper trust in Him.
What I know now is I want the girls I disciple to run hard after their dreams, but more than that, I want them to stand firm and pursue obedience even in the detours. I want them to know that the work God is doing in them is not secondary to the work they will do in this world. I want them to know their goals for the future, but greater still, I want them to know the God who has good plans for their future (Jeremiah 29:11).
How Can We Change the Questions We Ask:
(Here are some ideas I came up with, but I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!)
– What is your plan for the next four years?
What is one thing you’re praying for in the next four years? What does it look like if God answers that request differently than you expect?
– What are you doing to prepare for the next chapter?
How do you prepare your heart to hear from God? What Scripture have you read lately?
– What is your dream job that uses your strengths?
How has God uniquely gifted you to serve others?
Lindsay Smith is a follower of Jesus living in Texas. She is the wife of a football coach and the mom of a precious son, who joined their family through the miracle of adoption. She is a writer, coffee connoisseur, and “expert” shoe shopper. For the last decade, she has been discipling teenage girls and believes God is doing a mighty work in the next generation. Connect with Lindsay: Instagram