Monday, September 12, 2016

Plans Change, He Remains

Let me preface by saying, I know it has been an absurdly long time since I've written a blog post.  Freshman year sort of took hold of me and didn't let go.  I'm hoping that, as a sophomore, I can balance things a little more effectively and be able to make time to share through this blog what God is doing in my life.

If most of you remember, I started my collegiate journey at Liberty University last year as a Biomedical Sciences major with big plans to go onto medical school.  Although I possibly may have had the capacity to pull this off, it was very much my plan for my life, and not necessarily God's plan.  I still wonder where my heart was in that.  I still very much have a passion for the medical field, don't get me wrong.  I love observing hospitals and researching illnesses and such, and I think it's something I'll always care about, deep down.  However, for so long, it was less of a passion and more of an "I'm intelligent, and this field would use that intelligence to my best advantage."  In retrospect, I think pride motivated a lot of this.  Proving myself was my focus a lot of the time.

When I entered college last fall, my heart wasn't in it.  I tried to make myself love it.  I did every assignment and reading for my biology class and truly gave it my all for over two months.  I never missed a class or lab.  I would study all weekend for my tests and forgo weekend plans to go to study sessions.  My test grades kept falling and on my fourth test, I actually failed, which left me in tears, dealing with a huge existential crisis.  I didn't understand how I could give this my all and still fall so short.

It took me weeks to understand that this. wasn't. me.  It wasn't God's calling on my life.  Studying biomedical science had nothing to do with me pursuing something I loved and rather, the more I got into it, the more I realized it was about proving myself.  The lie of "if I go to medical school, then I'll finally mean something" kept circling around my head, or the even more dangerous alternative: "If I drop out of this major, I will be nothing."

But it happened.  I made a 34% on a test.  I don't cringe as much when I think about that now - God used it for good.  But, with that grade, I realized I needed to drop Biology and switch majors.

I cried.  A lot.  I questioned my life.  I was embarrassed, a lot.  I had to tell my friends and teachers that I backed out of the science major because I wasn't cut out for it.  That was a huge blow to my identity.  My identity wasn't in Christ; it was very achievement-based.  The hardest part of that is when you disastrously fail at something, your life comes crumbling down.  And that's what happened the third month of my freshman year at college.

I had to find things to refocus on, otherwise I would completely collapse.  I spent night after night up very late praying and writing and reading scripture until my heart would calm down enough to let me sleep.  I had panic attacks left and right; as a perfectionist, it was hard to handle the realization that the life I had built up for myself was crumbling apart.

With the sudden free time I gained from no longer having biology class and lab, I poured my free time into piano, which was something that I didn't consider part of my identity.  I was free to try and I was free to fail.  I had an amazing teacher who encouraged me to grow in so many amazing ways.  I fumbled my way through a Chopin waltz and started to shape myself into a halfway-decent musician.  Every time I walked into the school of music, my heart settled down a little bit.  Looking back, I feel so stupid for not seeing it earlier.

In November, I changed my major to Instrumental Music.  And, just two weeks ago, I changed my concentration to Piano Performance, which, alike Biomed, is terrifying in its own way, but it's a challenge that every day, I am honored to take on.

Do I miss being a science major?  Short answer is yes.  A lot, sometimes.  I walk past the science hall on the way to the music building every day.  Sometimes it hurts.  Sometimes I'm really sad about no longer going to medical school, as it was my dream for so long.  Sometimes I feel like I'm letting everyone around me down.  Sometimes I'm disappointed in myself for not living up to who I think I should be.

Then, I have to remind myself that God is still very, very good to me.  He has me right where I need to be, and I take comfort in knowing that I am right within his perfect will for my life.  Proverbs 16:9 tells us that "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps."  I have a way of being stubborn and doing things my way, but God has a way of shutting off all of the other paths until I see that his perfect path for me was there all along.  He let me fail that test so that he could show me his much better plan for my life.

Maybe it's taken me almost twenty years to get to this place, but I'm finally content with letting God lead me where I should be.  He has me in the perfect major at the perfect school, two decisions I agonized over for years, and I think him daily for the opportunity to study under an amazing piano instructor and learn so much about being a musician.  Studying music is something that has shaped my life in so many incredible ways, both spiritual and otherwise.  I still have to fight the desire to let my major be my identity, and some days it's very hard to separate the two.  But I know my identity is in Christ, and no matter how well I perform, I am still worth so much.

I'm asked a lot what I'm going to do with a music degree from a Christian liberal arts school.  Simple answer is: I don't know.  But I'm overwhelmingly comfortable with not knowing, for the first time in my life.  My goal is graduate school, then my dream to go on to get my Ph.D. or DMA and teach at the collegiate level.  Again - I don't know.  But God is so good.  He wouldn't have gotten me this far to leave me know, and I have faith in his perfect will for my life.

I realize that this has gotten rather lengthy and I apologize.  This is something that God has pressed on my heart to write for months now, and I know I am not the only one who has had their identity shaken about when they were forced to change their plans and goals.  Maybe there is someone out here who needs to read this.  I don't know.  But who am I to say no to God, when he puts something on my heart?

My final point is this: pursue him, and everything else will fall into place.  Don't be ashamed of whatever he calls you to, even if it's not as prestigious or honorable as what others are doing.  Follow God and your heart, and live in full confidence that who you are resides in an unchanging savior.