Ok ok yes, you caught me; I started this blog around a year ago and this is only my second post ever. I’ve had several thoughts about what I wanted to write about but there has been one thing getting in my way every time I go to write…I am lazy.
If you already read my last post, I let you in on that little secret already. If you haven’t read it that’s ok, but I do ask you to try for a moment if you can to push past your initial impression of me (which I can only assume is soft spoken, never sarcastic, and an incredibly deep thinker) to accept this hard truth.
I took my time deciding what I wanted to write about, but I really do hope to make this the beginning of a regular thing for me. I love reading (though the motivation to do it comes in phases) but writing has never been something that comes naturally for me. I struggle with the process, it takes time and the ability (and patience) to think deeply. I tend to try finding shortcuts a lot of the time in life, for a long time in school I was always trying to figure out the formula for the best possible grade with the least amount of work. This worked in some classes, in others it cost me big time.
Here’s the thing about shortcuts my friends, you buy a little time now, by costing yourself a lot of time later.
I have learned this lesson the hard way, because my shortcut cost me 7 years. Allow me to explain. I was a senior in High School very much into the performing arts (singing, dancing, acting) I loved being on the stage, and studying music. I’ll level with you, by my senior year out of my 8 classes of the day almost half of them were music classes. I had accepted Christ about a year previously and was going to Beta a high school bible study in Cuyahoga Falls consistently but God didn’t fully have my heart. I was following my own desires. I wanted to be recognized. I loved the applause, the compliments, the fun of performing and gave my all to music and what I thought was my key to happiness.
Once I graduated I decided that I wanted to go to Kent State University (mostly to follow a girl) though going where a lot of close friends were going had its benefits too. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, my mom was a teacher and the idea of having summers, spring/winter break and major holidays off just sounded too good to pass up. I originally was an integrated math major for about three minutes, but knew I would not stick to it. I decided to go exploratory until I decided what I really wanted to do. The thing was though I already knew what I wanted to do, I wanted to follow music. I had this stupid little thing in my head called common sense that told me I could not spend 4 years studying music performance because there was no chance I would ever make it big as a performer. So after taking two years to decide in the exploratory program I switched to music education. The first three years of college were like a tug of war battle in my heart. I was doing what I thought would make me happy, but it ended up just draining me of my love of music instead. It was around year two of my music education program (year three of college) when I was faced with a major issue for those wanting to teach choir. I could not play the piano. I was trying to learn and could slowly piece things together if I had a long time to do it but not enough to pass a piano class. I was also told that as part of my program I had to attend 80% of the music events at the school. Most of these events were concerts and recitals that took place on Tuesday and Saturday nights. What was the issue with that? Lets rewind a little.
My summer before my sophomore year of college I had joined a ministry apartment with some high school friends and some friends from my church now called Freedom Fellowship. For those who are not familiar with a ministry apartment, it basically is just an apartment where I live with some friends from my church with a mutual goal to grow our faith in the lord with one another. To be honest I can’t tell you why I moved in originally, the lord must have been really pressing on my heart to try it out. I was not very dedicated to my faith at that point in my life, it was pretty low on my list of priorities. I was going to my college bible study, taking part in a small men’s bible study, and attending a weekly church wide meeting. I was learning more and more about the bible but was not really sure what I wanted to do with my faith or the knowledge I was learning. I just wanted to have fun, play the games after the teachings, go home and watch tv.
I was living life my way but I did not realize there was something better out there. Something right in front of my face that I just couldn’t bring into focus.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” Rev 3:20 (NIV)
God was trying to knock on my heart, he wanted me to realize he was standing right there begging to offer me a better life. I had accepted him into my heart my junior year of high school but I never did anything with it. I had yet to make that “second decision” to live my life for him.
I kept fumbling around, failing classes, hooking up with my ex girlfriend on again off again to try to feel happy. The truth is I was miserable, depressed, and always felt like I had to put on a fake smile for everyone around me. After all I was supposed to be a performer right? So…I performed.
“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)
All my decisions seemed like they in theory should make me happy. It was not until much later that I would come to realize that while I wanted a life of happiness, what I needed was a life of Joy. My plan was going one direction while the lords plan for me was going the other he wanted me to be joyful, I just wasn’t sure how to get there. I kept following my plan until one night something broke. I was at home in my apartment feeling the impact of the life I was living and I felt just broken. Had no idea what I wanted anymore out of life. I was failing school, failing in relationships, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was utterly defeated.
I had nothing left to lose so I told God I would give his way a shot. I was already here, living in an apartment focused on growing with him, so I decided I would test out his way. I would try caring for my roommates, talking to him more, read the word and actually try to care about the things he cared about. The most mind blowing thing for me though was that the number one thing God cared about…was me.
The difference was quite literally like night and day. I suddenly didn’t feel so sucky to put it mildly. I felt joyful and lighter, IP (my college bible study) was actually fun because of the people and conversation I would have, not just the games. I felt so free…until I went back to school. So now we can pick up where we lift off Music classes kept getting harder, I didn’t know piano, and I would have to spend most of my time attending music events. I was resigned to my fate until the music event schedule came out and as I said most of the events took place on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The issue, those were the days I had my bible studies. So the path I had chosen, and the path the lord laid out in front of me had literally collided.
(Disclaimer: I in no way, shape, or form wish for you to take this out of context to mean God doesn’t want you to do things you want or love. I could have totally made the decision to skip a lot of my bible studies to follow the music path and God would still have loved me unconditionally)
In reality I was miserable in my music degree and looking back now I am convinced God was in the works to help me escape a future career I would not have done well at or enjoyed. I was going to finish up this semester of music education and then decide where to go from there.
After looking into all the options I saw two possible paths, either get a general degree and graduate ASAP or I could switch to another degree and stick it out for a while longer. This time I was convinced I needed to let others in on my decision. I talked to some friends and my roommate who was a teacher Zak Rozler, about what he thought I should do. He encouraged me that while Music Ed did not work out, that he believed I could be a great teacher. I’ll admit I was tempted several times to take the shortcut, get the general degree and be done with college now and save two years. I prayed about this, talked to family and friends and in the end I decided I was done with the shortcuts. The first one I took by going with music education, assuming I could do the easy stuff first then worry later about the hard things (learning piano for instance) had already costed me four years of college.
I switched into my Integrated Language Arts degree and to my great surprise, I loved it. The classes were fun and engaging, I was actually good at it. I started raising my grades, and my last three semesters I have made the deans list. This phase of my schooling has been the best of my college career by far. I am sorry for the extremely long background but I felt it necessary to get it out there and be totally candid about how I have been in college for seven years. Yes, almost two bachelors degrees worth of time. Not going to lie, at times I am really embarrassed of how long it took me to get my school life together. It requires me to admit that I messed, I failed.
While I wanted to just get it all out there about my schooling I want the bigger point to be this. I can not make my life work work by myself. I need God. His plan is so much better than my plan.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
God is my hope, he’s gotten me so much farther than I ever would have thought possible from a few years ago.
As I approach the end of my college experience I look back and just am filled with so much joy about the things the lord has done in this time of my life. I have numerous friends who I love dearly, a loving girlfriend who encourages me daily. Roommates who I can laugh and cry with. The lord has been able to use me to help bring people to him, lead a house of truly compassionate men, and be part of amazing discipleships. The last seven years has been hard, the most challenging in my life but also the most joyful.
So to wrap up this way too long post (thanks for bearing with me). Let the lord guide your path, his plan is way better than our plan. He wants desperately to be there to support and love you. In Matthew six Jesus talks about how we should not worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear for when we are seeking him first he will provide for our needs.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
God provides, he truly does, he did with me. So while it took me a lot longer than most to finally get through college, I am so glad I did not wait to make the decision to live for the lord. There is no shortcuts when it comes to following God, follow him, rely on him. It isn’t always easy, but it is always fulfilling and a life of love and joy.
And for a life like that I don’t mind taking the long way round.