For the past six months or so I have been wrestling with the ideas of identity and what I want to do with my life. I’m only a sophomore in college but I can already feel the pressure of the “real world” pushing against the bubble that I apparently live in. It seems as if every other conversation is about what I’m doing this summer, what I want to do when I graduate, or if I even have a plan for my life. I tend to say that I’m hoping to get an internship for the summer and want to become a “counselor of some sort” (as I so elegantly and definitively put it). I understand where we come from when we ask these questions. This is the season of life where we’re supposed to figure out who we are and what we can contribute to the world. And I don’t completely disagree with that but there are some words that have stuck in my mind. They come from a book written by a crazy lovable guy named Bob Goff.
In his book Love does Bob tells a splendid story of how he once sailed across the pacific with a couple of guys and a bunch of water. None of them were expert sailors and Bob ended up getting chosen as the navigator. He went to a local marine shop to ask how navigating works because he had never done it before. The shop owner said that there are two different ways to navigate: the complicated way and the simple way. Knowing how little time he had until they were supposed to set sail, Bob asked the owner to teach him the simple way. The basic method involves using a fancy pants sea tool called a sextant and the stars to plot out three points that make an equilateral triangle on the map. You then draw a circle around the triangle and as long as you head within that circle you’re doing fine. So that’s what they did. Each day Bob made sure they were within that circle and let the winds push them on. And you know what, they made it to shore. No GPS or expert navigator. Just a single tool, the brilliant constellations, and some wind.
Like Bob and his buddies, I don’t think any of us are expert navigators. Pastors tell us how we should be living, professors teach us a way to make a living, and politicians promise a better standard of living but they’re still preaching sermons, arguing about taxes, and writing books so I think we all have a long way to go. We try to calculate exactly where we are and exactly where we want to go but it never seems to happen the way we planned. Life happens, God tosses the waters and we get lost. Or at least we feel lost because we can’t pinpoint where we are or where we are supposed to be going.
And I think we’ll always feel lost until we start drawing circles. Bob imagined those circles as rings of God’s grace; as long as we point toward Him, we’ll find ourselves in his grace. And I think that’s a good way to live. God seemed to like to work with people like that, the Abraham’s, Joseph’s, and the Paul’s of our world. I’m sure these people had specific passions and dreams (heh get it. Joseph. Dreams) but they weren’t so set on knowing how they would play out. I don’t think Abraham wanted to move or Joseph asked to be thrown in prison or Paul dreamed of being shipwrecked, but I bet there is a sweetness to those memories as they sit on the shore and share their stories.
We can still hope and dream and plan but I think we should do so knowing that we aren’t exactly where we think we are and we won’t be exactly where we want to be. We just point for His circle of grace and experience all that he planned for us: the sprays of salt water, the looming storm, the refreshing and cool breeze. Life’s still hard and scary and complicated but we can sail on into anything knowing that we’re in His circle.
And when I do finally make it to that white sand beach, I don’t think I’ll remember all the plans I had that never happened. I think I’ll just have some sweet memories of seeing Jesus walking towards me as I was tossed and turned by those ferociously graceful waves.