Tag Archives: choices

A word for graduates, a lesson for all of us


Graduation season is upon us. It’s that weird season of both endings and beginnings, of both tears and smiles, and of both sadness and excitement. I must admit that I teared up as I stood outside the field house and watched past students exit in their caps and gowns with their degrees in hand and their future before them. I remember these times in my own life vividly. I am not someone who likes change and yet graduation was such a tangible symbol of the previously unseen work poured into exams and assignments the previous four years. Each commencement was filled with such an intense mixture of bittersweet emotion – joy and pride at the accomplishment, excitement for what the future held, and sadness at having to leave the place I’d called home for so long. Some of my peers experienced only sweetness as the previous four years had not been as kind to them as it had been to me and the day it was all over with simply couldn’t come soon enough.


It’s also the season of, “What are you doing after graduation?” A question dreaded by all but by none more than those who just don’t know yet. I guess I was one of the fortunate ones. I always had an answer to this question. But having an answer is much different than being confident in the direction the answer is taking you. And as I work with high school and college students, that’s the sentiment I hear expressed most often. Students ask me, “How am I supposed to know what to do when I don’t even know who I am?”

The field of psychology often talks about “identity development”. I’m more interested in character development than identity development. Identity isn’t developed, it’s discovered. Your identity has already been imprinted on your heart by God, your Father and Creator. It needs to be discovered because over time our identity is buried – buried by our own sins of greed and pride, buried by fear, buried by others’ expectations of us, buried by pain – just to name a few. In the midst of trying to discover my own identity, a professor told me, “Decide what you are passionate about. Identify a need in the world around you. Then find the point where those two intersect. There you will find your purpose and calling in life.”


Those wise words changed my life. I began to realize that my passions and preferences are part of what makes me uniquely me. And it is true of you as well… follow your dreams as they are likely God given! So often fear and insecurity cause us to make practical choices, the safe choices, but not always the God-ordained choices. We follow our head and our fear instead of our heart and God’s lead. And we are left uninspired and unfulfilled as a result.

So to any recent or future graduates longing to uncover your identity and God’s plan (or really anyone experiencing a holy discontentment with their life), may I urge you to first be bold and courageous. Forget convention and do not give into fear. Stop worrying about what you are “supposed” to do and focus only on what God is calling you to do. Want to know your true identity? Ask the Creator. He knows each and every detail of every masterpiece He’s ever made. He knows how to uncover the places that have been covered. He knows how to make the dark areas part of the beautiful whole. He knows how to make your heart sing and soar. He knows you inside and out and if you trust Him and follow Him, you’ll not only discover your own God given identity, but you’ll also find God.

“I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17 NIV

Throwback to graduation from Fuller in 2008. Finally, Dr. Cleveland, YES!

Choosing to Trust and Promising to Praise

A couple of nights ago, I went running in the rain. Now I am normally a VERY fair weather runner – it can’t be too hot or too cold and it certainly shouldn’t be raining! But this particular night, the cool rain and the quiet glistening streets just felt right somehow. I often spend my time running talking to God. Often it is simply asking God to make sure I make it back home! But this night, it was confession…I’ve been writing about confession and I suppose I have to live what I write…


I told God just how sorry I was for not trusting Him wholeheartedly and completely. Have you ever been there? I say I trust God with my present and my future and believe He is with me in the waiting (click to read about God’s presence with us as we wait), but I don’t act like I really trust Him. Instead of enjoying the good gifts He’s given me each day, I fret and worry about whether or not He’ll come through tomorrow. I say He’s a good, good Father who gives incredible gifts, but I continue to doubt His provision for tomorrow despite experiencing His abundant blessings today.

And so with each step it wasn’t just sweat and rain that ran down my face…

But God is a good, good Father. He is patient. He is kind. And He is SO slow to anger. And for that I am even more grateful than I am for the tangible blessings He gives.

God is indeed with me in the waiting and as I wait, He longs for me to rest in the assurance of His constant and faithful provision. He has always come through in the past. He holds and knows my future. But if I continue to fret instead of demonstrate faith, I’ll miss the joys of His blessings in my present. So what’s my fear? Well, what if what I want for my future isn’t what God provides? Ugh, I hate even typing it. It just sounds so selfish, bratty even. But I know I’m not alone. Don’t we all doubt whether God’s plans really will be better or at least as good as what we have planned? And don’t we all know how silly it is to think God is somehow holding out!? And yet…

The truth is sometimes we don’t get what we want. Sometimes the path and plans God lays before us involve more suffering or heartache than we anticipated. And so we long to believe and trust and follow God faithfully wherever He leads, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. We know God’s way is ultimately the best way, but we are also very aware of Jesus’ promise that in this world we will have trouble (and disappointment and sadness and hurt).

And so what are we to do? God in His graciousness knows how much we struggle to trust Him and promises to give us strength where we lack. And so we ask Him for that very thing…strength to trust. We ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to stay in the present where we are much more able to notice the blessings God has given, praise Him for providing, and delight in the joy they bring. We promise that in good times and bad, His praise will ever be on our lips because atmospheres shift when we praise. And so my prayer did just that – it moved from confession, to gratefulness, to promise, to asking the Holy Spirit for the strength to keep my promise: a promise to praise His name whether I get my way or not and a promise to choose to trust Him, because like choosing to run in the rain, ultimately trusting God and praising Him really is a choice.


And so hold me accountable. May I stay present and grateful for the gifts of each and every day. Whether life seems to be going my way or not, may His praise ever be on my lips. And I pray that is true for you as well.

You Lead. I’ll Follow (Albeit Anxiously and Reluctantly).

“You lead, I’ll follow. Your hands hold my tomorrow. Your grip. Your grace. You know the way. You guide me tenderly. When you lead, I’ll follow. Just light the way and I’ll go. Cause I know what you’ve got for me is more than I can see, so lead me on.”

These lyrics by Jamie Grace have been my phone’s ringtone for the past year. This catchy tune with the rah rah lyrics is uplifting, encouraging, and empowering. Until you have to live them out…

Seriously, think about the last time God asked you to faithfully follow Him and your reaction. I hope it was one of eager excitement to run hard in the direction God moved. I have to admit that this is not how I react. It’s how I want to react, but it’s just not. At all…

What do I do? I tell God I will follow him wherever he leads me. I tell Jesus I’ll pick up my cross and trust him in all things. But then when he shows the way, I kick and scream and protest. Why? Because I’m afraid. Because I’m comfortable. Because it’s not my way.

It’s exactly what the Israelites did. They wanted to believe God would lead them through the desert to the Promised land. But when they got sick of manna and feared the giants that already occupied the land, they grumbled and protested and waivered. They even turned to a man made trinket for answers and turned on each other when God responded in anger. They wanted to obey God’s laws, but when that made them different and unique from the people groups around them, they asked for a king so they could fit in.  And so often people refused to follow Jesus because the pull of their family, their profession, or their possessions were just too strong.

There is an epic battle between the part of my heart that is fully redeemed and longs to chase hard after God and the part of my heart still stuck in the things this world has to offer. And so often we cast the things that keep us from following God in a negative light, but really they are often really good things like career, family, reason and logic. Faith is rarely reasonable. Faith in God requires that we give up the really good things for the unimaginable great things of God. One part of my heart wants to choose faith and follow. The other part wants to choose fear and stay put, where it is safe and predictable. It’s my choice: God’s way or my way.

my way gods way

One will lead to the Promised Land; one will not. One will lead to a life I cannot even fathom; one will not. One will glorify God; one will not. One will grow my faith; one will reinforce my fear.

Thankfully God is patient and purposeful in His pursuit of His people. When fear outweighs faith, He continues to lead and continues to call us to follow. He continues to promise that His way is the better path. Exodus 15:13 say, “In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” And John 8:12 says, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

So how do we choose faith instead of fear? How do we follow God’s lead? It starts by desiring to follow where He leads and it takes listening for his voice. In John 10, Jesus tells a parable about sheep following their shepherd. In verses 3-6 he says, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

Do you know Jesus’ voice? He’s calling. He’s leading. You simply have to listen and follow, even if it is anxiously and reluctantly. Just do it obediently.