Breathing heavy from my walk, I threw myself into one of the old, blue, plastic chairs and stared ahead of me.
What was in front of me was a view that usually puts a smile on my face no matter what. For the past five years, I’ve come here whenever I needed a reset.
Without fail, I walk into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, and my smile is inevitable. Memories of being here as a wide-eyed kid clutching my dad’s hand, usually flood my head. Thoughts of my grandpa, who was my rock, usually hit me. Wondering about my parents when they were here, always happens. Dreaming of what’s ahead of me is unavoidable. Usually.
Maybe it’s really weird to say that a football stadium is one of the places I go to be reminded of God’s faithfulness. But if you know my whole story, you know that UF is more than just my college. There’s not much in my story that orange and blue hasn’t had an impact on. And being in The Swamp, well, it usually brings me perspective.
On this day a few weeks ago though, I felt empty. Thinking about everything ahead of me, my eyes felt more tired and confused than wide and excited.
I’ve written about it on here before, but it was never my plan to be at UF this long. Super senior year hit me out of left field.
I’ve always been the girl with a well thought out plan. But sitting in The Swamp on that day, all I brought with me was a wrecked 4-year plan, and a career plan that had completely flipped on its head and changed.
In between my first senior year and now, obviously, 2020 happened. I’m not going to type a long paragraph about how confusing and hard it was, because I think we all know that. All I’ll say is 2020 added things to my personal story that I had no clue what to do with; I yelled at God about those things and about this broken world a lot.
At the end of 2020, as I wrote to you two blog posts ago, I felt broken and so confused. My plan felt nonexistent.
On that day in the stadium, I was sitting there as the girl usually with a plan, who didn’t have a plan this time.
Last spring, looking ahead at this last year of college, I prayed for one thing: purpose. I prayed daily that God would make my purpose in Gainesville big and obvious. My subtle expectation that I don’t think I even realized I had, was that this year would be nothing short of awesome.
Now over halfway through, sparing you a lot of the details, so far, I’d put my super senior year right up there with my freshman year as one of the hardest of my life.
I disappeared from my blog and to be honest, this is the first time in months I’ve sat down to write and completed more than a few sentences.
For someone who now wants to pursue being an author full-time after college, this has been so frustrating and confusing.
Part of me has felt not worthy to write words in today’s world. The other part of me felt like this wasn’t the place or the time for my tiny blog.
There’s a lot going on, so who am I to take up any space with my stories or thoughts?
So, let me be clear: this is not a post where I’m just trying to tell you how tough my year has been. I’m not unique in that, and I know that if I look to my right, I’d probably see you sitting right next to me in the same boat.
We’ve all had a tough, confusing time this past year. I didn’t want to write about mine, because I knew that.
Last week, four people close to me asked where my blog was. I smiled and said I was trying to find words.
Which, disclaimer: I still feel like I don’t have, and I am still sitting in one of the toughest seasons of my life.
But I know God has words. Because I know we’re all a little (or a lot) confused, I wanted to try to give you his words, and not mine.
I sat in church this week as my pastor introduced a series on Ecclesiastes. I’d never spent much time in that book, so I flipped there the other morning. The first thing my eyes read was this:
“What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.”
As some of my friends and I would say when a set of verses hit us hard: oof.
The number one thing I’ve asked God in my super senior year is: what are you doing?
No kidding, I have probably asked him that 1000 times about my own life and about the world. Spoiler alert: he hasn’t showed me any of the specifics of his playbook.
But what those verses tell me is that I should find joy in that:
Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful…
But how do I do that?
How do I be joyful when people around me are hurting? How do I feel joyful when my own body feels broken? How do I be joyful when I don’t know my purpose in the place that I’m in, and my head is swirling with lies 24/7? How do I be joyful in disagreement with others? How do I feel joyful when bad things are happening, and the faith I cling to is getting a false image cast onto it?
How do I feel joyful when things are falling apart? How do I feel joyful in toil?
Like I said, I feel just as clueless and confused in this area as you might also feel. So, in a way, this post is me getting in the trenches next to you, trying to figure it out. In a sense, I’m also trying to convince myself of the things I’m writing you about.
I think our simple answer to joy is one word hanging out in the middle of that passage: eternity.
I don’t like to admit that sometimes I am in the exact same place as I was in one of the last times I wrote you. Today, I’m telling you that I am.
The world still feels unfair, I still feel broken. Maybe even more broken.
But I think that’s the catch. Ecclesiastes tells me that literal toil, if you will, is the reason I should be joyful.
Maybe now I’ve lost you, because that shouldn’t make sense. But stay with me.
Go back to the one word I said might be our simple answer to joy. Eternity.
If you and I look at every bit of “toil” we face through the lens of eternity, theoretically, we should smile.
Why? Romans 8:18.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
If we look at this entire world that has been broken since before you and I entered it through the lens of what is to come, what I’ve been praying for, is there. Through the lens of Eternity, purpose meets me right here and on the other side.
Because of what is to come, every bit of trial and suffering does not happen in vain. And because of that, I should smile, and you should too.
Look, I get it. It’s cliché and annoying to hear that God has a purpose in all of this. I feel like it’s one of those things I’ve written about in 50 different ways.
But if that isn’t true, then what is?
My point is this: even the worst thing you experience here, will not compare to the joy that Eternity will bring you. Because of that, nothing is in vain.
Our God is not a God who leaves.
I can promise you, that even when nothing makes sense, it’s still worth it to fight to find the purpose God has left for you in each and every day.
It might be smaller or different than you imagined, and it may not reveal itself to you until sometime in the future. But your purpose is there.
Fight to find it. I’m trying to find my purpose in Gainesville right now, and trust me, it feels like a fight.
But I just keep telling myself that one day, God’s purpose in my year 5 of college will make sense. I just keep telling myself that it is purposeful, even when I don’t see it.
Few things might make sense in your life too right now. I’m sitting next to you in that.
Switch your lens, and I’ll switch mine too.
Look at your life and our world through the lens of Eternity. It still might not all make sense. In fact, it won’t.
Though it will still be blurry, I think we’ll at least be able see that it’s worth it.
Joy in the toil.
Because there’s purpose, even in the confusion.
Just switch your lens.