It’s been eight months since I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in communications, eight months since being tossed into an ocean of newness and uncertainty. I still remember the uneasy feeling I had stepping foot in my house in Long Island again after being in and out for four years. It was like being in the matrix. Everything felt so different, and yet the same, the same as it was 10 years ago when my family first moved in. This time, I would be staying for more than just a summer.
I didn’t have a job when I first graduated and wouldn’t have one for about two months. At the time I was scared, anxious and confused. I had done everything right. I was a captain and jumper on the track team for four years. I achieved a 3.69 GPA and used what time I had left over to write for two publications, one focused on Christian thought and the other focused on financial education for young professionals. I served God in Christian ministry through Cru. During the summer, I did a bunch of mission trips and summer internships.
Where did I go wrong?
Me. Me. Me. That’s where I went wrong. I had developed such a dependence on myself that there was no room for God, no room for the One who was actually in control of my life.
The “me-ness,” pride, and self-dependence was infiltrating every decision, action, and thought I had about anything and everything. In the job search, I thought my success was wholly predicated on how good I could make my resume and cover letter look. In my faith walk, I thought that reading a scripture every once in a while or praying before bed would automatically turn me into the man of God I wanted to be. I even thought that managing my finances was all about how well I could divide every paycheck to save, invest, and pay off debt.
Now these things in and of themselves are not wrong.
Yes, a good resume and cover letter does help you get the interview and eventually the job. Reading the Bible and praying does help you get closer to God. Budgeting and understanding where all of your money is going does help you reach your financial goals. But, when you place the burden on yourself to be perfect in these matters, check every box and meet every self-imposed expectation, you will eventually burn out and that’s exactly what happened to me.
Learning to Trust
The amazing thing about God is that He can and does teach you lessons in a million different ways. Abraham and Sarah learned about faith through a pregnancy in old age (Genesis 16-18, 21:1-7). Moses learned to trust in God to lead the Israelites despite a speech impediment (Exodus 4:10-17). Peter learned to focus on Jesus in the midst of strong winds and heavy waves (Matthew 14:22-33).
Everyone has their own experience.
Part of my learning process took place during reflection on the past year and what had taken place from the beginning of senior year up until now, but another thing that caught me by surprise was … my dog. My dog Rico, a two-year-old Chihuahua-Shiba Inu mix, is the living embodiment of the faith described in Hebrews 11:1. He has an uncanny “assurance of things hoped for,” a “conviction of things not seen,” and a great understanding of the fact that his life is in the hands of his master.
Rico wastes little time in trying, on his own, to get food and water or go outside to run. Sure, he could use his speed and athleticism to jump up and hit the bag of kibble off the kitchen counter, but it would result in a big mess. He could try to break the glass doors that lead out into the patio and backyard or knock down the gate leading to the bottom floor of our house, but that would cause him injury.
Instead he utilizes his trademark form of prayer (a request) and worship (reverence): an ear-piercing, high-pitched bark. When he is hungry, he will stare straight into the windows of my soul and deliver multiple deafening barks. It doesn’t matter if I am watching an important scene in a show, having a conversation with my siblings or getting my own food to eat. Rico will interrupt whatever I am doing to get what he needs.
Rico knows his source and chooses to trust in it as opposed to his abilities. Can that be annoying or frustrating at times? Absolutely. As an able-bodied teenager (in human years), he has to wait for me to fix a bowl of food and open the door out to the patio for him. But, at the same time, the master knows what’s best for him and provides him with shelter, food, extra treats and other amenities, relieving him of the stress that would accompany trying to do everything on his own.
Now, we are certainly not dogs and God is certainly not a human being, but the central message from Rico’s life remains: We don’t need to be anxious for anything.
We can pray and hope in the source (Philippians 4:6-7) which brings us provision and peace. I don’t have to risk injury or make my life any more stressful by taking things into my own hands. A part of faith is action. Rico has to bark to get my attention and ultimately, his food. I have to pray and seek God for my needs and do other things in my life, but the understanding is that, the Lord has made each day and I can rejoice (Psalm 118:24).
In any personal battle, the victory is the Lord’s (Proverbs 21:31). My life is not up to me. It’s above me and when we learn to embrace this mindset, we can experience God’s peace every day.