Ten years ago this month, I began my sojourn of sorts. I’m still very much within that trip, yet to find out where (or when, or if) I’ll “land.”
I had graduated from Texas A&M in the middle of the expected collegiate career, leaving behind what I would later realize was the most flourishing college ministry climate in the country. That last semester was my best semester, and it came on the heels of perhaps the most formative year of my whole life. That last semester, Fall 2000, was the last time life was “normal” or “expected,” you might say, and beyond that it was genuinely fun.
But in January 2001 I followed God up to Abilene, Texas, to minister to college students among three Christian schools out there in West Texas. Five and half hard, interesting, good years were spent in Abilene, filled with seminary papers and paper routes and bookstore-creation and random large road trips that I stumbled upon (little knowing they were only forerunners of much longer treks). Those pictures remind me just how elusive I found stability and normalcy to be.
Then a year in Dallas and another college ministry gig. Abilene had always felt “sojourny”; Dallas seemed like it might provide a chance to land. But that comfort didn’t last long.
God adjusted my call after that year to serving the entire field of college ministry, and off I went on a yearlong road trip to 44 states, Mexico, and Canada by accident. That amazing year has been followed by two-and-a-half more, happily aiming to lay down my life for our cause among the campus tribes.
For someone like me – not your natural adventure-seeker – this decade without “my ducks in a row” isn’t the most comfortable proposition, even in hindsight. But God has stretched me and taught me to enjoy this wandering. Truly. Usually.
A year or two after I graduated from college, I happened to visit my alma mater and sit in on a church’s weekend conference for college students.
At one point, the speaker shared something that (I’m sure) those students and (I know) one semi-recent college grad didn’t want to hear. He told us we shouldn’t assume that the entire span of God’s preparation will be contained in the four or five years of college. Instead, he said, God often uses ten years or more .
Ten years of preparation. Ten years of sharpening. Ten years of becoming useful for a person’s major life purpose.
The point came home (at least to me); we shouldn’t assume we’ll step from graduation stage to centerstage. In fact, we might find ourselves seemingly sojourning in this sense for many years after the glories of our college years fade.
I celebrate these past ten years, and I’m happy to share it with you guys. But my main reason for writing this is to encourage us to remember that we’re raising up wanderers. Our strong, mature, awesome students may very well spend the next several years still preparing to be used in the ways God wants to use them.
And of the biggest temptations they’ll face is the temptation to choose stability over sojourn.
Though each person’s spirituality certainly isn’t evaluated by just how “awkward” his or her adventure happens to be, I pray we’re raising up lots of students who are at least willing to wander, and to wander well.