“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
Sitting in the comfort of Lone Light Coffee, sweetly perfumed by the pie shop sharing its tenancy, an idea I heard plenty about began making sense to me—God’s plan. I was meeting with Reggie, the mentor with whom I was paired through the Horizon Fellows program, for the first time. Reggie, although small in stature, is an impressive man. He is a career counselor at the University of Virginia’s Data Science Institute, an active member in Charlottesville’s young adult Christian community, a loyal friend, and now my mentor. As he opened up about his experiences, I was beyond impressed how a man his age has lived such an interesting life. Interesting for reasons like his extensive networking skills—which have, for instance, allowed him to see one of my favorite bands at an intimate house concert in my hometown—as well as the amount he has traveled. And not just for work. He intentionally plans visits to see his many friends and family located across the country and globe. He is a genuine delight to talk to and our conversation on this hot May afternoon was wonderful.
As an eager undergrad unsure of his future, I was curious about how someone like Reggie was so calm and trusting with whatever came his way. As if God heard my thoughts, my mentor entertained my curiosity by sharing about how he came to Charlottesville. For him, it was a bold move full of uncertainty, but he described it in a way I can simply paraphrase as trusting in God’s plan for him. I have heard this idea of God’s plan before, but there is something transformative about hearing a firsthand experience explained with the kind of confidence achieved only through practice. The practice of trusting what God is going to throw at you next.
“Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Luke 3:21-22
Fast forward a few weeks later. After hearing the wisdom Reggie offered, which I was still ruminating on, I was now in a foreign environment for the entire summer. This was daunting for me. About six weeks in to my summer, however, my outlook shifted. The catalyst for this change was a new friend and mentor, Bill. Bill, a few years older than Reggie, has a wonderful wife, four kids, and an incredible career teaching high school Latin. Conversations with Bill are on par with counseling, as I am able to speak my mind free of judgment. He has the rare gift of making you feel heard and loved, as well as the wisdom to instill a sense of direction in you. Our one-on-one talks every week were my favorite part of the summer. It was during our early conversations about Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved when I began to internalize what it meant to trust in God’s plan.
What is funny to me about Nouwen’s book is that he wrote it with the intention of helping his non-Christian friend, Fred, and other secular minds, understand the deep spiritual love Christians experience from God. Perhaps to Nouwen’s dismay, Fred reported to Nouwen that the book was wonderful…but not what he expected. Fred described the book as “for the converted” and that is exactly what it has become; a simply put and popular conceptualization for understanding who we are—the Beloved children of God. Regardless of the book’s intentions and reputation, I ate up every word of it. At the heart of the book is the idea that God is calling us His Beloved and we must follow that voice. And this voice is everywhere. It is in our families, relationships, studies, church, and conversations with friends or strangers. It is that “voice” that tells us we are worth it, we are special, we are chosen. I cannot begin to do the book much justice, so all I will further say is that Nouwen’s understanding of God’s love for us pushed me to search for voices in my life that call me Beloved and subsequently make me feel special. Cliché, probably, but when I linked this message with trusting God’s plan, the idea of having God in my life became practical for the first time.
Heading into my fourth year, I remembered how enthralling Reggie’s story was. Although everything for him seemed well-directed and planned, there was that spice of invited uncertainty that I admired and yearned for. Incapable of grasping on to the future’s unknown, I am often frustrated with the thought of what comes next. Given all of this, and the fact that my fourth year would be marked by discerning post-graduation plans, I sought a way to mitigate the fear of the unknown in order to welcome it as a necessary part of my life. I merged the ideas I had been pondering since May to realize that following the voice of God calling me Beloved is synonymous with trusting God’s plan. Though it is unlikely I will ever have an “aha!” moment when I figure out my calling, I am learning to trust God’s voice more than my own these days.