By Julia Amting
So, as a senior in high school, my life is currently consisting of spending a huge amount of time thinking about the future. And I should be, right? Lots of applications to fill out, and a lot at stake. Teachers and parents and the internet and the experts pound relentlessly into our brains the idea that it’s never to early to start thinking about your future and filling your schedule with extracurriculars so that colleges may let you spend tens of thousands of dollars at their institution.
Mainly, I spend a lot of time worrying about what I don’t know.
I don’t know what college I’m going to. I don’t know what career I want. I don’t know how exactly I’m going to find all the money I’m going to need. At this time next year, I could be anywhere, doing anything, with anyone. This is a weird time. I’m looking forward, but I have no idea what I’m looking forward to, or if it’s going to be good. I live within this whirlwind of possibilities, and waiting to see which one will be reality, which is so very exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time.
This season of Advent is all about waiting too. Waiting for joy, waiting for our Savior to come and penetrate our lives. But throughout this season, we are to wait in Joyful Hope. Not frustrated, not impatient, but joyful. To my impatient heart, waiting and joy seem like oil and water.
So yeah. That’s where life’s at right now.
So it has me thinking.
Everybody contributes to the world in a different way, a unique way. It’s so easy to look at the person next to us, the person we just got off the phone with, or the person on social media, and wish that we were doing what they were are doing. To have what they have, to serve how they are serving.
On an almost daily basis, my English teacher would make a reference to how small we are in a world of 7 billion people. How insignificant our lives are in the grand scheme of things. So what’s a girl who wants to change the world to do? In the words of St. Francis de Sales:
“Be who you are, and be that well.”
So here’s a metaphor. I’m an alto. Very much an alto. If I try to sing too high, anywhere near the prime soprano range, my vocal chords will protest by squeaking and breaking. Not a very musical noise, to say the least.
However, I had a choir director in high school who was convinced I could reach those notes, that I could be a soprano if I practiced enough. I squeaked my way through quite a few pieces, accompanied by many a sore voice after rehearsal. As time went on, the squeaking reduced, and I did broaden my range, which was good for me. However, my voice naturally sounds better an octave lower. That is where I thrived, and where I could best contribute to the overall sound of the choir.
Sometimes we try to make ourselves into something we’re not. Because others tell us what’s right, what we are supposed to be, and what we should be striving for. Sometimes these voices are even our own.
I often stretch myself at the seams to keep growing to fit the mold of what I think I should be, what I want to be.
But always pulling at yourself is exhausting, trying to live this mantra of “but I can do more.” There comes a point where we have to be content with who we are, what our role is, and fully enter into the role that is meant to best serve the choir of believers and of humanity.
No one way of being is exactly like any other. No combination of gifts and strengths and weaknesses are exactly like any other. Learn to enter into your gifts. Learn to stop striving to be an ideal that maybe you’re not supposed to achieve.
Always grow. Always. But look for how God wants to grow you. How can we do that? By looking around. By seeing the opportunities and the people and the inspiration that is around you now. By letting go of trying to control that process, because it is like the clay telling the potter to back off, because it can make itself.
Who are you right now, what’s your role in a symphony of 7 billion people? A mother? A student? a Missionary? A business-owner? Are you as unsure as I am about the future? Be who you are, and be that well.
No vocation, no life, nothing we do is insignificant. The nun who has devoted her days to serving the poor has just as worthy of a calling as the mother driving her kids to school and the bestselling author and the janitor and the car salesman. It doesn’t matter what we do, it matters that we do it with love. Be who you are, and be that well.
Wherever we are, we are called to dive into that reality. To fully see the pain, the hardships, the joy and the triumphs for what they are, and not what we want them to be or what we wish they were. Be who you are, and be that well.
Notice that the quote is not “Do what you do, and do it well.” because It’s not about doing, it’s about being.
It also works that, if we are called to be who we are, and be that well, we are called to look at the times we’re unsure, and be okay with the uncertainty. Sometimes the only thing we can be well is uncertain.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
-Rainer Maria Rilke-
And remember that being uncertain is so okay. That living the questions might be where God wants you to be right now. And it’s so okay to believe that that’s okay in a world that tells you have it all figured out. We have to learn to find peace in that tension of not knowing. Because there is a time when we are supposed to know, and we will know. And we will know exactly when we need to. There will be a time when we get to that distant day when the God who speaks in quiet and searching will speak. When the distant days bring answers. And when the time comes, we will do it well. We will live it well.