I wasn’t yet 18 years old and still I felt like my life was supposed to have some sort of direction. I was supposed to know what I wanted to do with my life. And when I was that age, that meant going to university. Everyone went to university. It’s what you did. And even though I applied to university, I really didn’t have a clear view of why.
So off I went to Mount Allison University. I had applied to their Fine Arts program, mostly because I liked doodling and drawing. Truth be told, I had no business applying for that program and there was really no chance I would get in. Not at my level of “skill.” Instead, I was admitted to the General Arts program, a direction reserved for the undecided and unfocused, where philosophy and literature majors abound.
To make a long story short, my first year of university, while not an altogether negative experience, was pretty much a wash. I was a mediocre student. I didn’t know who I was or who I was supposed to be. I got through it but that’s about it. What I knew for certain was that I didn’t want to go back the next fall. Other than that, I had very little idea what my future would hold.
What this meant for the next fall was that I was living at home, working at a local grocery store, and doing very little else. My closest friends were at university. It was kind of depressing, really. I was by myself a lot. My mind and heart ventured in unhealthy directions. Spiritually, I was sort of in a holding pattern or limbo. My first year of university was a false start of sorts. And my year of living at home was definitely a detour.
For me, unfortunately, I wasn’t in a spiritually experienced or mature enough place to listen to God. At the very least, my relationship with God was still in flux. I was still in that period of questioning. I was still struggling with church and with what I believed. And at the time I didn’t have anyone around me who could play the role of spiritual mentor.
Thankfully, God would eventually find a way of reaching even me. That’s a story for a different post. All I will say is that, thankfully, God is not limited by our limitations.
But here’s the thing: life includes false starts and detours, seasons when we feel like our lives are on hold or when we feel like we’re drifting and unclear about where we’re going. It can feel pointless. We can feel pointless. We can ask, “What am I doing here? What’s ahead of me?”
Having such an experience doesn’t mean there isn’t more ahead. We just might not see it yet. And it doesn’t mean God has abandoned us. It just might mean we don’t see or understand what he’s doing. It might just mean that he’s readying us by emptying us, by ridding us of false expectations about what our life should be. If life takes a detour, maybe God is protecting you from one thing and preparing you for something else.
So if you find yourself in such a place and time, and you don’t feel like your life has direction, open yourself to what God might be doing in that detour. Or if you the direction you thought you had, the plans you thought were secure, evaporate, know that it might very well mean that God does indeed have something else in store. Experiencing a false start or a detour might simply be God’s means of crucifying one thing in you in order to bring life to something better, more full, where you are more able to acknowledge your need for him. It can suck at the time, but believe me when I say that what God wants to give you will always be better than what you thought you already had.