• Emily Bennett

Unknown Roads to Preplanned Destinations

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

“May you approach this season with gratitude and a deeply rooted hope that everyday will teach you something that is an integral part of your growth.”- Morgan Harper Nichols

When I was a little girl, my concept of God was quite unclear with the very first memory I have of Him beginning around the age of six or seven years old. If you know me now, you can probably imagine how much of a tomboy I was when I was younger- always preferring to run outside with the big kids instead of playing princesses or dressing up Barbie dolls. In the rarity that I chose dolls over dirt however, I always chose to play with the slightly less “girly” doll set that my parents bought me. In addition to hand picking a family that resembled my real family, I would often take the dolls on adventures down the hallway in the green van that was also included in the play set. Coincidentally, my real family owned a green van too. I would put the dolls in the green van (in the corresponding seats my family typically sat in), fasten their seatbelts, and guide the van to wherever I had planned for them to go that day.

Although I didn’t know much about God or His role in my life at this time, I compared my hand pushing the toy van to God’s hand pushing and directing my family’s green van in real life. I imagined Him leading us around to our destinations and activities with great care and enthusiasm, just like how I pushed my dolls around on the carpet of my bedroom floor. I knew their plan for the day just like how He knew my family’s plan each day. It sounds rather silly looking back on it now, however that was how my six-year-old self comprehended the vastness of God in the simplest way I could think of.

I give my six-year-old self a lot of credit for thinking this way and for not being that far off in regard to the nature of God and his divine role in my life. Now a twenty year old however, a large source of my confusion and uncertainty is not in who God is, but rather in trying to determine what God’s will for my life is- where He is driving my green van and if I’m following the map correctly. As I have grown up, I recognize that there is so much to be done to try and make the world a better place. That we should spend our time doing something remarkable and helpful, otherwise we haven’t done enough. I have realized that if I want to change the world, what I do with my time is vastly significant and impactful. That encouraging and supporting others and offering kindness to everyone is quite literally the rule by which my life should follow.

Living in New Zealand allowed me to put my life into perspective and helped me not only to recognize the grandness of the world, but what things I should spend more time giving my attention to- things that are truly important and not superficial. One of my favorite days spent in New Zealand was the day I got to volunteer for Make-A-Wish New Zealand and help grant a little girl’s wish. It seems odd considering all the amazing adventures I got to experience while abroad, but the ability to make such an important impact on the opposite side of the globe really struck me. All of the other wonderful and exhilarating things I got to participate in were of course incredible, but not necessarily things I could take home with me- that I could build a life around. This day made me realize that wherever I go, I have a unique opportunity and moral obligation to love that corner of the world and to make it better- even if its just one person or one family at a time.

At this stage in my life, this question of God’s will or purpose in my life feels the most prominent in regard to what career I should choose to pursue after graduation, as your career tends to give way to the impact and mark you will leave on the world. For professionals such as doctors, nurses, or teachers, it is clear what impact they will have on the world and what role they will play in society. As a business major however, my future is much more vague and I find myself feeling more lost than I have ever felt in my life thus far. In an attempt to find some direction and stability, I applied to several spring semester internship opportunities when I returned home including: Maryland CASA (court appointed special advocates for children) Association to help move neglected and abused children into better foster care; SafeMinds to help create a platform for Autism in the area; World Relief which reaches out to communities and churches to assist with natural disasters, education, poverty, health, and so on; Royal Farms arena to help with hosting events and meet and greets and a few others. Although each of these organizations fit the criteria I was looking for and I had been given interviews from each, I politely declined both offers and interviews. This decision was incredibly difficult for me because I didn’t know if focusing on school and readjusting to American culture and classes was more important than an opportunity to help people in the present. I didn’t want to regret a missed opportunity and felt both guilty and useless.

Around the same time, a former professor at Loyola whom I still stay in contact with, helped to put my decision into perspective. She said that the decision I made "demonstrated maturity, restraint, commitment, and focus." She continued, saying that it sounded like this decision came from my "inner being (as opposed to societal pressures/expectations/etc.) and that those decisions aligned with my inner being or my Higher Self will always lead me in the direction I desire to go." Prior to her saying this I felt incredibly conflicted, worried, and ashamed about saying no to these opportunities, but she helped me to realize that sometimes the most important decisions you will make in your life are knowing when to pass up opportunities, not just when to take them. Because although they may be convenient or attractive, God may not be leading you there in that moment- and that’s okay.

"...the most important decisions you will make in your life are knowing when to pass up opportunities, not just when to take them."

In addition to internship struggles, I told her that I was feeling doubtful about my strong desire to start my own non-profit organization in the future because many people have suggested that I won’t be able to provide for myself financially in the future. It worries me when people I admire and respect say that my education isn’t intended for that kind of work or that I would be wasting the money spent on my higher education because with all due respect to those individuals, I think that is both small minded and a mistake. My education is absolutely intended for this kind of work. All of my experiences, both in Baltimore and abroad, the classes I have taken, and the people I have met in the past three years have laid the foundation for my desire to do this. Rather than focusing on doing well in life, I have chosen to focus on doing good in life. This may sound naïve or immature, but I’m not seeking a life of material or even stability, I am seeking a life of meaning. In a world greedy for money and power, profits are commonly associated with success, but we are not called to be successful- we are called to serve. My professor gracefully told me that "the moment we start suppressing our desires or disapproving of possible paths, we limit our potential and make it a whole lot harder to find and live out our true purpose in this life." She reminded me that no one else can tell me what my true purpose is...that is between me and God. "Other people's words can spark ideas, encourage us to look in a certain direction, help us recognize our own gifts and strengths, but the answer is only knowable by us. And the answer can be different things at different times in our life."

"In a world greedy for money and power, profits are commonly associated with success, but we are not called to be successful- we are called to serve."

In addition to the gift of words she gave me above, she also recommended that I listen to a four-part podcast series called, “Divine Direction” by Liquid Church. The main message of the series is that, although we may try and plan our lives, it is really God who determines our steps. Although I sit in a green van, God determines where it goes. The podcast continues to emphasize that a large part in uncovering what God’s will is for our lives, is focusing on the direction He wants us to move in rather than the destination we hope to get to. I suppose in a way; this season of my life feels like I am not doing everything I should be doing to fulfill the needs of the world. That there is so much to be done and so many people to love and help and yet I’m being ignorant of it. I think maybe age and circumstance have a lot to do with this inner conflict; but if I really want to leave a legacy that changes the world, I know that I should be pursuing a noble and godly direction for my life to lead in so that when the time comes, I can do my part.

Ultimately, God’s will for all of us is that we become more like Him. So, as I sit patiently in the green van that is my life, I am doing my best to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells within me and to “trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean-not on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct my paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). I don’t know what the destination is for my life or what I will have accomplished by the time I'm called home, but I do know that the direction of my life will always purposely be aimed towards God. Whatever I choose to do with my time on this earth will be in an attempt to make the world a better place; because if I consciously choose to pursue a life that brings the most honor to Him, how could I not change the world.

As I follow unknown roads to preplanned destinations, I know that my green van is in good hands for I will push the gas, but God is always in control of the steering wheel.

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