With the beginning of a new school year, so many pieces of the past year have flashed before my eyes, with their own questions trailing behind them. How is it possible that an entire year has gone by just like that? After everything the past year contained—what deep grace is this to be in the grace-filled place I am today? Am I seeing tiny glimpses and bold swaths of God’s presence in this last year (Gen. 39:21)? Do I see how much of the previous year was covered in a love so vast, so deep that one day it will simply cover over all the pain, failings, and brokenness of these years (Rev. 21:4)?
Over the couple weeks off between semesters, I wrote a lot. Prayed a lot. Read a lot. Cried a lot. Dreamed a lot. Hoped a lot. Listened a lot. And was helped and encouraged a lot.
For several weeks before break began, I had great expectations of using the time away from school to write a half dozen blog posts. But that did not happen. Over the course of the two-week break, numerous topics found their way into my journal or a Word document. Sometimes, it was something someone said, a verse I read, something from one of the many books I’d been reading, or something I was wakened up to during the night. But I was not able to finish anything.
The words just were not there to bring even one thing to completion.
It is like seeing something but not being able to see it clear enough to adequately describe it.
So, instead there is this post about doing the next thing.
Be Faithful in Doing the Next Thing
Truly, there are days and years and seasons when that is all any of us can do. Or should do.
Trust God, listen to him, be with his people, and simply do the next thing.
Three weeks ago, I received an email from Travelocity, asking me if I were ready to go back to Great Falls, MT, as it had been nearly a year since I had been there. And over the past couple months, Facebook has regurgitated quite a few memories and blog posts from my summer trips to Myanmar and the Dominican Republic. Another lifetime ago.
But I am not going back to the reservation in Montana this fall. Nor am I in another country.
No, I am going to school, while living in a small town in the Midwest.
Doing the next thing. With joy.
If someone had told me last summer what my life would look like this year, I never would have believed them. But I am deeply thankful to be here. There are not enough words to express how much I love my school and church and the people who make up both. Nor is there enough gratitude for the sisters, friends, pastors, instructors, and classmates who share life with me. God has been kind.
And I am realizing that doing the next thing can look a million different ways for a million different people.
It may mean showing up to work or it could be resigning from a job. It could be serving in the church or it could be taking a season off to just attend. It could be moving far away or staying in the same place. It could be continual doctor visits or unending tears in the midst of broken hearts, lives, or bodies. It could be laying under the stars or driving home at night. It could be singing worship songs to Jesus in the shower or pouring your heart out to him on a late evening run. It could be admitting your fragile faith and great unbelief to God. It could be sharing Jesus with your unsaved coworkers or encouraging a friend. It could be listening to the breaking hearts of people you hardly know or simply offering a greeting to someone who doesn’t look at all like you. It could be seeing a counselor or finding a mentor. Or it could be realizing that it is one’s time to pour into the soul work of others. It could be a time for more afternoon coffee dates or a time to stay home and read to your children. It could be any of these things or a hundred thousand other things.
Be Faithful in the Time Given
When Frodo mournfully told Gandalf that he wished all the mess with the ring had never happened to him, Gandalf spoke words to him that are also thoughtful for us, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
To a follower of Jesus, deciding “what to do with the time that is given to us” should, above all else, be consumed with living lives that proclaim the glory and worth of Christ (Rom. 11:36; 1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31; Rev. 4:11; Jude 1:24-25). This also means deeply loving, knowing, and treasuring Jesus (Ps. 16:11; Luke 10:27a; Matt. 13:44; Phil. 3:7-8). And it should also mean that we love others out of the overflow of God’s great love to us and in us (Eph. 5:2; 15-16; Luke 10:27b). The million smaller things we do next should first have their source in our One Thing—Jesus (Luke 10:42).
His grace, strength, and love are enough for every next thing, every next step (2 Cor. 9:8). He is always enough. We are simply called to love him deeply, love others greatly, and be faithful in doing what he has called us to do.