This morning as I went out for my morning run I was faced with a great deal of obstacles. I have been running the same route for about a month or so now with a few variations to add in a mile here or two miles there. For the most part I have been running on the route that the Grinnell Games ½ marathon will be ran upon. I thought the best way to train for the little hills (and I do mean little) that are found on the route is to go out and run the route itself. Most mornings are met with little to no opposition to running this route. Sure, I might occasionally have to wait on traffic as I have to cross 2 major roads here in town where traffic is rather high, but that just provides me with an opportunity to stretch, catch my breath, grab a swig of water and get back to finishing my run. This morning though was much harder. The town is in the process of beautifying the route. This means that all the pot holes, sidewalks, etc that were damaged during the hard winter we just experienced are being fixed. My first obstacle was with a block of my home. It forced me to change direction before I normally would. I was able to quickly get back on track and did rather well for the next mile. However, it wouldn’t be long before that would change. This lap here in town is shaped like the letter C. Part of the run nearly overlaps and I can see that rough roads were ahead. I kept going hoping that maybe the sidewalks would be usable. I neared campus and came face to face with my next obstacle, Grinnell College’s graduation ceremonies are today. Great I thought. The course I set out to run had me running right through campus. I was forced to make changes yet again, and as I finally go through the campus area I ran right into the road construction I was trying to avoid. So much for avoiding it as my altered route through campus ran me right into all the construction. I am not really sure how many miles I actually ran, but I know I ran more than I intended. But such is life.
As I ran through campus, I began to realize that it has been 14 years since I graduated with my bachelor’s degree from Florida College. Most of these kids were just starting school when I finished mine. Most of these kids hadn’t even thought of going to Grinnell College when I was starting my life without college. This got me thinking again, (when you are running you have a lot of time to think) I wander what words of advice they would receive. It is inevitable at every graduation the graduates will receive several “pep” talks. One of their fellow graduates will offer words of encouragement. Some other speaker, who has already traveled this road we call life will also offer up some words of encouragement telling these young men and women the world is theirs now go take it by the horn.
Looking back on my life over the last 14 years I have a few things that I wish someone would have told me when I was graduating. So, if you are one of the thousands that will/have walked away from college for the last time here in recent weeks I implore you to listen closely.
Life is filled with detours. Like my run this morning, life does not always end up the way you planned. When I graduated college I was hit with a massive detour. The woman I loved broke up with me. She wouldn’t even talk to me to even so good bye. It shook me up, because I really thought that I was going to marry that girl. As I went home, I intended on going back to school to receive my master’s degree. I wanted to take a semester off to save up a little money for basic living expenses so that I could focus on school full time. A semester came and went and then another, and another and 14 years later I still haven’t gone back. What did happen? I ended up marrying that girl that broke up with me. I couldn’t get her out of my head or my heart so I moved back to Florida where she was going to school, got a job and waited until she graduated so we could get married. In the years that followed I was hit with several other detours. I remember my wife telling me that the last thing we wanted to be was a preacher’s wife. 6 months after we were married I was preaching. Another detour came when we found out she was pregnant and then she lost the baby shortly thereafter. This moved us to actually plan for a pregnancy. Something we didn’t want to do until after we had been married a few years. More detours have come since then. As a result I have lived in Illinois, Missouri, Virginia, and now Iowa. I have traveled out of the country preaching the Gospel in Norway. And I now have 4 wonderful children. My life is nothing like what I thought it would be. Chances are, yours won’t be either. That is not a bad thing. My life is so much better than what I thought it could be. My life is so much fuller than I could possible imagine. This leads me to my second point of advice…
Embrace the detours. Detours aren’t a bad thing. Sure, they can be challenging. Sure, they can break you down to your very core. But detours can make you stronger. I ran further than I intended today. I got a better workout than I had planned. That is not a bad thing. James stated that we are to consider our trials (our detours) as joy because of what they will do for us. He wanted us to consider them joy because as a result of them they will give us endurance and strengthen our character (James 1:2-4). I never thought I would have 4 kids, but I wouldn’t exchange them for anything. I never thought I would live in Iowa, but it is the best place I have ever lived. I don’t know what life has in store for you, but embrace it. Love every minute of it. If it is an unexpected pregnancy, an expected job offer, an unexpected journey. Love them all. They will make your stronger.
Finally, don’t quit. Some of these detours will be hard. After awhile I wanted to quit. I just wanted to find my quickest route home. I imagine when I run that ½ marathon those thought will come to mind, especially since the route runs past my house twice. But I can’t quit. I have to keep going. I will never know the joys of finishing the hardest thing I have ever done if I quit. So I tell you don’t quit. I know life gets hard. I know life gets you down. I was one who once felt that not only had life knocked me off of my feet but that life was kicking me while I was down. You don’t quit. If you can’t find a job, and chances are good you won’t, don’t quit. Keep looking, keep trying, look for the detour you weren’t expecting. I can’t tell you where you will end up, but what I can tell you is that by perseverance you can be made stronger, better, and even happier.
Good luck doesn’t seem to be the right expression to end this thought, so I will simply say… good journey.