The Next Steps

The cloudy mist enveloped me on graduation morning, as I waited in the stream of black, red, and blue vestments, shifting from one foot to the other to keep the chill from setting in too deeply. The sense of what I had accomplished had only dawned on me a couple weeks before, and the day was more emotional than I had anticipated. I was reaching the finish line of a marathon, and there was a freeing buoyancy in my spirit as I reached the end of the stage, my diploma in hand.

Now, several weeks later, it still seems a bit surreal. No more papers or 1500 page reading lists. No more end of semester crunch time stress. No more syllabus-structured work schedule.

I don’t know if I know what life is like not in school. I’ve been doing this for 20 years of my life, with only one year of a break. Twenty years of the rhythm of semester’s worth of assignments. Twenty years of exams, homework, syllabi. Twenty years of summer breaks and mid-year holidays. I like school. I like its structure, and I know its rhythms. With all the work and stress, it’s familiar, and I’ve become adept at riding its waves.

Now the question repeatedly greeting me is “What’s next?” I’ve been developing some graceful, intelligent-sounding, rather definitive ways of saying “I have no idea.”

There was a time I would hate that uncertainty. Okay, sometimes I still do. But if I’ve been learning anything throughout this season of young adulthood, it’s to hold my plans with extremely loose hands. And for at least this season, I’m okay with that. I know where to take the next steps, even if I don’t know where the road will lead. I have a steady, faithful man beside me on the journey. And I know Who leads us. For now, that is enough.

I can’t help but think of the Israelites in the wilderness, each day following the cloud, each night, the fire. When it moved, they moved. When it halted, they set up camp. They knew vaguely about their destination, they had glimmers of what it would be like. Each day, the Lord provided enough for that day’s need. Each day, they got the direction to know which way to walk. The battle was in the faithfulness and simple trust of their hearts—to not grumble, not question, to follow and obey with unwavering, steadfast faith.

I have yet to decide if it’s just this season of life or all of life that feels like this. There are so many crossroads, so many possible routes—and we are waiting to see which way the cloud will lead. I am thankful that I am following one who does not fail to provide along the way, who walks along with us, who does not fail to show us where the next steps should fall. The battle is to keep moving—to not falter or hesitate because of the uncertainty—the battle is for unwavering, steadfast faith.