College, Confusion, and God’s Faithfulness

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“We do our best when we don’t know what we are doing.” — Bono

Bono spoke these words to Bill Hybels, in an interview taped for Leadership Summit 2009, about working toward making a dent in global poverty and the global AIDS problem.

Can you relate to these words?

I know I can.

When I was in college, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I began as a social work/sociology major. Why? I liked one particular teacher as a freshman at Eastfield College. Now in those days, I did not ask anyone for any input or advice. Furthermore, I had no direction in terms of work or career. I declared a major but really had no idea what kind of work that might entail. Later, after I transferred to the University of North Texas, I majored in business and earned my degree there.

The Eastfield campus was an interesting place. There were lots of Vietnam veterans coming back from the war. (At the same time, with a low draft number, I kept waiting to be called.) There were numerous political discussions in various classes. “Underground” newspapers were sold on campus or passed out in the campus center. Intense conversations took place in the campus center. There was much cynicism toward institutions and much interest in most anything that seemed to be an alternative. Braless girls and guys in old jeans and interesting t-shirts walked throughout campus. In the parking lot were many vehicles with peace symbols and political stickers on the back windows. Meanwhile, in the middle of all of this, a total stranger came up to me one day in the campus center and asked point blank: “Do you love Jesus?”

These were turbulent times in the nation. These were turbulent times in my life. I felt very confused about many, many things. I didn’t understand my feelings and didn’t understand my thinking. I had no idea what to feel, think or believe. There was a sense in which I felt very alone.

I remember bouncing all over the place in my thinking. One day I might listen to a Japanese professor talk about the merits of Buddhism. The next day, I might be volunteering to work for a presidential candidate. One day, I might be reading a book about the mistreatment of American Indians. The next day, I might be reading about some sort of radical lifestyle on the West Coast. My thinking had no center and no direction.   I do not recall in those days knowing a person with whom I could talk about things that really mattered.

I did try on one occasion to visit with a minister who had served our church for a number of years. I wanted to talk with this man about my life. Why him? I have no idea. It took some time to get up the nerve to go see him. One day, I drove to the church building, went around the block, and returned home. Finally, a few days later, I walked into his office. I told him that I had not been living right and felt very guilty. He told me that I was a “good boy” and he knew that I had not done anything that could be that wrong. That was frustrating. I remember thinking, “I get up the nerve to finally talk with someone and he won’t take me seriously.”

Now if you had asked me what I believed, I would have given you some sort of answer. I might have told you that I believed in God, Jesus, the Bible. Or, I might have told you that I believed in my church. In those days, I might have even communicated in some way that I thought my group was the only right group. Yet, I think in my heart I knew something was missing in all of this. I knew there were gaps. I knew there was a gap between God and my life during the week. I could not figure out how God connected with what I was experiencing at school. I heard the preachers say that the gospel was “good news.” I could not figure out why. There wasn’t anything that seemed like good news to me.

Yet, through all of this, God was at work. I am convinced that God was at work shaping and molding me. I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. Yet, my confusion did not stop God. If I were to get a “do-over” with this part of my life, I hope I would make some better decisions. I hope I would choose to develop better habits. Yet, through it all, God continued to work. He is faithful.

Question

Can you look back at a chapter of your life that may have been dark or confusing at the time and see now that God was at work? What is one thing you have learned about God because of these experiences?   

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8 thoughts on “College, Confusion, and God’s Faithfulness

  1. The biggest events in my life were totally unexpected and unplanned. I can look back and see how God shaped moments and encounters into preparation for something different, but rarely have I accurately predicted what the next few years of my life would bring. (I think that ended about 6th grade)

    God likes to surprise me, and I'm learning to enjoy the surprises.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  2. Wow, awesome post Jim. I think I am in a place right now in my life where I don't know exactly what I'm doing. About to make a major life-changing decision and although I can't see the entire picture, am convinced it's the right thing to do. A step in the right direction. Thank you for this encouragement and reminder that God is always at work, even when we may not be aware or fully clued in to the details. Loved hearing your story. (And I think by time we got around to Bono at the Summit, I was on mental overload. So thanks for highlighting this statement of his here!)

    • Dianne,
      Thanks for the kind words. I wish you the best as you make this major life-changing decision. I look forward to hearing more about your journey in life with God.

  3. That dark chapter of my life was high school and college! Later another dark chapter was seven of eight years of full time ministry in Florida. I learned that God places people in my life who love me and refuse to abandon me … people who eventually helped me see God again.

  4. Off topic… that book is a marvelously beautiful little treatise on the pastor as poet. It's refreshing me in unexpected ways. I think you'll like it. If you end up reading it, I'll enjoy hearing what you thought.