Do you ever look back at a moment or decision in your life and think “What was the purpose of that?” or “How does that have anything to do with where I’m at now?” I’ve had a lot of those moments. So much of my life didn’t turn out as I planned (key word, “I”), and there are so many parts that still don’t seem to make sense in the scheme of things.
For example, when I was getting ready to go to college, I was sure that I was supposed to be a writing major. I had a defining moment two summers before that leading me into the direction of writing. All throughout the four years in college, I never once questioned that path. But now, four years after graduation, I’m wondering how that really fits into my life now. I went to grad school for a totally different field, I’m working in human services, so I’m not doing much writing in my career, although I am doing a lot on the side. It just doesn’t seem to make much sense.
In grad school, I really felt like I should be taking Russian classes. I even went to the Summer Language Institute at Pitt to prep so I could get a head start in learning the language. I took three years of classes. But using the language didn’t quite work out the way I thought. I originally planned to spend my summer internship in Ukraine, where I could learn more Russian. Those plans fell through, and I ended up going to Serbia, where I could at least read the language but that was the only way my Russian classes helped me there. I also thought I had a pretty good chance of getting a job overseas or with an international organization, but those plans also fell through. I couldn’t understand why I felt so strongly that God was leading me to take three years of Russian and devote all my grad school research to Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
It’s hard to understand all the pieces to our story, especially when we’re not able to see the whole picture. Sometimes things just don’t make sense—and it’s not always things like unused college majors and language classes. Most of us also have stories with a lot of pain, broken relationships, and failures that are out of our control and don’t seem to fit in what we think God’s plan is.
There were a lot of great things that came out of those unfinished chapters, but it was hard for me to see that while I was trying to view my story as this grand novel where everything wraps up in the end. But I think life is a little bit more like a TV show or a collection of short stories. Each episode has a purpose within itself. Sometimes it connects to a larger theme and sometimes it doesn’t. The bottom line is that each time, the character learns a lesson and develops as a person.
By living out these moments, we learn to take chances on things that don’t necessarily make sense. We often meet people we never would have met, have experiences we wouldn’t normally have, learn things we couldn’t have learned any other way. Even in the midst of hurt and pain, God uses those moments to lead us towards Him and towards the people He is shaping us to be, the people we are becoming.
In our lives, each “episode” doesn’t necessarily play into a bigger theme, but it does serve a purpose within our story and within God’s story. In each of those moments, I know that I was where God wanted me to be. And that, more than how it fits into my life now and even more than fully understanding the purpose, was what was most important. If I’m trying to understand every little episode, every footpath, every season of my life, I miss out on the moments that can help me become the person God is calling me to be and help me learn more about who God is. I have to trust that in the end, everything wraps up, even if it doesn’t happen by my standards. By stepping into those moments, regardless of whether we understand them or not, we show God that we are continually pursuing Him. He is the ultimate theme to our stories.