When I came into my freshman year at Hope I was a music education major. After my first semester, at some encouragement from a professor and a “life crisis” spurred on by myself and by emotion-creating medication for my consistent and random freshman year illnesses, I made the call to add a major in voice performance and a minor in management (possible, but crazy).
Making this decision was a pretty long process. I made a list with highlights and strikethroughs of every single major that Hope offers, hoping to figure out what I was supposed to do with my life (often asking anyone who would listen why I was expected to plan my whole life at 19 years old, which is an incorrect perception).
In the middle of the semester I decided to switch to just voice performance, which then turned into a general Bachelor of Arts in music with a ministry minor. That is how I left at the end of my freshman year. Throughout the year, becoming a religion major or minor had popped into my head a few different times, but I suppressed it each time because I had never taken a religion class at Hope. It seemed a little weird to drop everything I’d been planning for years to pursue a major in a field I had never studied at all, so I didn’t do it.
Over the summer, the idea kept popping up in my head, and one of my best friends at camp affirmed this thought more than once. I kept thinking that I couldn’t drop my music major; it was what everyone had always told me to do, it was the thing I thought I was best at, and it was the thing I had planned on for years.
Then the fall came. I was registered for 20 credit hours of almost exclusively music classes (typical for a music major), and I realized that I didn’t want to do any of it. At all. Why would I spend my time and money pursuing a field I no longer wanted to spend all my days and nights studying? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could not find a better way to spend my years at Hope than to use them to learn all I could about the Christ I love, the community of saints from which I draw my heritage, and the people who make up the world around me.
I looked at the course catalog and discovered a recent addition: The ethics, culture, and social witness track housed within the religion major. I saw it and I knew that it was exactly what I wanted, needed to do. This was Saturday, the day that all my freshman residents arrived in my cluster in Dykstra. I’m convinced that they all thought I was insane when I came out of my room and into the cluster in pajamas, probably a little teary-eyed from such a sudden sense of relief, bouncing with energy from the decision I had just made. When Monday rolled around (the eve of the first day of classes), I went to the registrar’s office, dropped all my classes, and picked up all new ones. It was crazy and stressful but I knew that it would be worth it. How would I rather spend my remaining time at Hope than being equipped to become the best disciple that I can be?
That semester was hard. I took classes that stretched me, challenged me, made me cry, and changed my life. It was horrible and wonderful all at the same time, but I knew that the seemingly random mishmash of classes I found myself in with so many last-minute changes was leading me into a field of study that was going to shape who I would become as a person and the direction of my life. I am thankful for the craziness that I encountered that semester, even though in the moment it was so difficult.
Most of the time when God reveals things to us, they aren’t that loud at first. A lot of times, he is telling us things that we aren’t listening for, and sometimes they are things that we simply do not even want to hear. Putting aside the career goals and perceived passions I had held for years was scary for me – I knew I was letting go of my expectant hope to someday direct a high school choir or to own a voice studio, but I also knew that there was something else in store for me.
Two ways I have learned to realize that maybe God is speaking are when I feel consistently unsettled about something, and when something comes up repeatedly. Both these things were present as I contemplated changing my major; I was discontent with my music major, and majoring in religion just kept popping up even though I did not feel prepared for it. Even in that nervousness, I felt so much more at peace once I made the decision to change my major. That is another way I think that God communicates with us; he gives us peace in chaos as we do the things he is calling us to.
I do not want to make this sound like I am some sort of mystical expert at listening to God or that I always do exactly what he calls me to, because that would absolutely be a lie. I am thankful that through the process of becoming a religion major I have learned what it means to listen. God’s will is not something we need to painstakingly and unhealthily search for until we are so destroyed by our own uncertainty and impatience that we begin to doubt God’s work; no, as a Christian, I am called to do God’s will. This means that when he makes something clear to me, I do it, but if I am not sure of what he wants, I do not think that he has abandoned me or that he must not care about me anymore.
Instead, I do the things that I believe I am called to and that I believe will build God’s Kingdom. I study, I read, I listen, and I pray for clarity. Sometimes God isn’t abundantly clear, and that is okay; though I do not always understand why, I know that he is good and he is working through all parts of my life. Sometimes there are moments of insane clarity, like in my choice to become a religion major, and sometimes there are times that I have no idea what to do, like in my decisions about whether and where to go to seminary. In both times, I know that God is working for my good, and I do what I believe he asks of me, even though most of the time I do not see it written on a neon sign.
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Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.