My husband and I recently moved across the country to Massachusetts where he is about to start graduate school. The transition has been sad, exciting, scary, fun, exhausting, and wonderful all at once. Now that we’re starting to get settled, I’m experiencing some of the paradoxes of beginning a new chapter in life: we are making new friends while missing our old ones; we are learning to navigate unfamiliar streets and neighborhoods while longing for the comfort of familiar roads; and we are discovering new places, restaurants, and local treasures while reminiscing about our favorites back home.
We come from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the “Land of Enchantment” (as our license plates will tell you), as well as the land of green chile, Breaking Bad, breathtaking sunsets, and endless horizons. That last one is the one I miss the most right now—endless, sweeping landscapes that stretch out as far as you can see with virtually nothing between your gaze and the horizon. From most parts of the city, you can see all the way to where the earth meets the sky. I’ve heard other people talk about feeling claustrophobic in areas that are surrounded by tall trees. “I just wish I could see the sky!” they bemoaned. I never fully understood this sentiment until we made our move. I took for granted the grand openness and big, wide sky of the desert. While driving on the freeway the other day, I started to get that claustrophobic feeling. I couldn’t see very far in any direction due to all of the trees, and after winding around a bit I was completely disoriented. It’s unsettling, not being able to see the horizon.
This same feeling seems to accompany many major life choices and changes, or sometimes just life in general. We can’t always see the end of the path we’re on, or where it leads, or which direction it will take us. Not being able to see exactly where we’re headed is scary. While my husband and I are starting to get comfortable in our new home, and while the next few years are more or less planned out, I can’t know for sure what our lives will look like once my husband is finished with school and it’s time for the next move. We don’t know where we’ll be in five or ten years, although I suppose that’s true for anyone at any stage in life, in a sense. No matter what our plans are, life teaches us that plans are subject to change, sometimes at the mercy of forces beyond our control.
That can be the scariest part: not being in control. Don’t we wish, at least sometimes, that we could know our future? I know I do. Sometimes I think that if I could know the outcome of each decision I face I’d be able to make the best decision every time. I’ve struggled with anxiety for most of my life, and the worst bouts have come when I’ve faced major life decisions (choosing a college, getting married). Often I’ve wished that I could see ahead into my life to know the results of each decision so I’d know what the “right” choice is.
But none of us can know what the next decade, or year, or day holds in store. That’s alright, though, because even if we aren’t always in control, we have a loving God who is. Perhaps it’s better this way, because we can spend more energy focusing on the present moment and more trusting God with the future. Christ tells us that the Father knows our needs before we even ask him (Matthew 6:8), so we can rest assured that our God continually cares for us and knows how to provide for us.
Of course, we have to make plans in order to live our lives, and we have to make choices in order to move forward. But in every plan and decision we make, we must remember to trust in God’s guidance for and control over our lives. In everything we do, we must do so prayerfully, always thanking God for the blessings he has already given us and for those that are to come.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. — Phillippians 4:4-7