More than likely, our lives have or will turn out differently than we plan. Even so, we can know the satisfaction of a life well-lived. The deciding factors have less to do with mountain-top moments and more with our everyday habits.
Last month, I had the opportunity to share with Alpha Omega Academy’s graduating class some habits that will help them live meaningfully, and I don’t think these practices are just for teens. They’re ones I have to work on intentionally every day. Maybe they’ll help you, too.
Habit #1: Guard Your Priorities.
We might be able to multi-task, but we can’t do everything. Or, if we try, we’ll do less well. Guarding our priorities means saying “no” to good things so we can “yes” to better ones.
By “better,” I don’t mean in terms of importance but in terms of our calling. Is this task or responsibility part of our God-given assignment? Is it something we should do or just something we could do?
The truth is that guarding our priorities sometimes means letting go in order to respect our commitments. But in the end, honoring our calling is more important than pleasing everyone.
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
Do you recognize this conversation from Alice in Wonderland? If you’re graduating, maybe you feel a little bit like Alice. You’d like very much to stop and ask for directions.
Along the way, though, life is going to take you places you might not expect. Last week, we saw the first two, and today, we’re going to look at two more.
Missionary explorer David Livingston trekked across Africa from west to east and braved many hazards, including the Kalahari Desert. If you’re looking for an inspirational biography, I challenge you to read his.
He had this perspective on where life took him:
I’d rather be in the heart of Africa in the will of God, than on the throne of England, out of the will of God.
Although you may never cross a literal desert, you will face times of spiritual dryness or times when God just doesn’t seem to hear your prayers.
That’s when waiting on Him becomes so important. Trust me, I’ve been there. The “waiting room,” as I’ve come to call it, is not a fun place to be. When is a door going to open? When is God going to make a way where there seems to be no way?
Ironically, the barrenness of the desert can produce some of the richest fruit in our lives, because it forces us to depend day by day on our heavenly Father.
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)
Learn to face deserts with anticipation, because you never know how God will lead you through and what will be waiting on the other side.
By garden, I mean quiet and still places with cool grass beneath your feet and gentle streams.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:2-3 NKJV)
The garden is a place of rest, refreshment and refocus. When you find yourself with breathing room, don’t chide that the action and drama of life have slowed. Take the opportunity to spend more time in God’s Word and enjoy the people and opportunities at your fingertips.
While planning ahead is great, counting your blessings in the here and now is also important.
Thank God for what you have, and trust Him for tomorrow.
Graduate, I’m excited for all the places you’ll go! God has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11). Don’t waste the precious life entrusted to you, but pursue the passions God’s laid on your heart. Give God permission to redirect as He sees best, and get ready for the next step on your journey.
Tweetable: The Places Graduates Go: Deserts and Gardens – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)
Last year, I had the privilege of guest blogging for my friend and writer Ashley Jones. She invited me to share a two-part graduation challenge for graduates. This year, I’d like to share those posts here with you. Whether you’re graduating or have long since graduated, I think you’ll be able to relate to the places we’ll face on our journey.
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!
Dr. Seuss penned these well-known verses which have become synonymous with graduation. They capture a sense of achievement and the anticipation of climbing the mountain ahead.
Mountains are awesome to climb (We’ll talk about that in just a minute.), but there are several other places graduates will find themselves in the years ahead. Some of them are exhilarating; others are exhausting.
Even if you’re not a graduate, you can still relate to these places. Wherever you are in your journey, I hope these words will encourage and challenge you to pursue your God-given dreams – wherever they take you.
For those of you who are graduating, this is where you are right now. The spotlight is on you, and your parents are in a frenzy to make every moment special, every moment count.
Personally, I enjoy mountain climbing. A few summers back, my brother and I hiked Mount Washington, the tallest peak in the northeastern United States. The sense of achievement upon reaching the top (and surviving the round trip) merited a large iced coffee, a chocolate cake donut, and bragging rights.
Mountaintop moments chronicle our success stories, and you’ll probably climb several figurative, if not literal, mountains in your life. However, pinnacles can be dangerous if we hunger for them more than for God.
In The Truth Project, Dr. Del Tackett calls this desire a hunger for significance. The drive for success is natural and God-given, but it can become a killer when we crave significance above our relationship with God.
The Apostle Paul warns about this pitfall in Galatians 1:10.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (ESV)
Go climb a mountain. Go for your goals, and do so with the drive to please God with your life.
Geographically speaking, valleys are much wider places than mountaintops. Death Valley stretches 100 miles long across the borders of California and Nevada. It is one of the hottest places in the United States.
Life sometimes brings us face to face with trials that threaten to burn us. We lose someone we love. Our application is denied. We don’t get the job or promotion. The relationship ends.
Although the future sometimes looks hopeless in the valley, we don’t have to travel it alone.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me… (Psalm 23:4a ESV)
Valleys are part of living in an imperfect, broken world. By God’s grace, they won’t keep us down for long. Regardless, our Lord goes with us through them.
There are some other places you’ll go in life after graduation, and we’re going to look at two more next week.
Until then, I have an assignment for you. Grab a pen and notepad, and write down your hopes and dreams for tomorrow. No matter how crazy or impossible they seem. As someone has said, “A dream is just a wish until it’s written down.”
You’re either going to face these goals (take risks) or forget them (avoid life). I strongly recommend facing them, because no matter how scary your dreams seem, they are at least experience or at best, success.
After you’ve written them down, then pray over them – that God will shape them and give you the courage to pursue them tenaciously.
Then, get ready for the adventure. You never know what places you’ll go.
Tweetable: The Places Graduates Go: Mountains & Valleys – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)