Several months before I finished high school, my mom asked me what kind of job I wanted. We were just pulling out of the driveway as I told her one of my deepest secrets, “I think God wants me to be a pastor.”
My mom braked with unnecessary force to avoid the parked cars across the street. “No,” she said firmly, “I don’t think God does.”
Looking back, I wouldn’t expect any other reaction from my mom. She has an unusual perspective about job security and career paths, not to mention sanity. When I was 10 years old, she quit her depressing job at Safeco Insurance and spent six months living off her savings before taking a job at a nonprofit food bank. During her stint of unemployment, she spent half the summer hauling my sister and me across Canada on the road trip of our young lives.
Ten years later, as I face college graduation, finding a job is a top priority; close behind it is sanity. I am a recent convert to the theory that the brain in its senior year of college enters a developmental stage of temporary insanity, retreating into chaos as it tries to understand its significance in the world.
Right now, sanity seems dependent on my knowledge of the future. I was recently asked about my plans for the next few years, and all I could reply was, “I try not to plan too far ahead. So far, I haven’t been very talented at reading God’s mind, and don’t want to attempt to plan my future without considering the unpredictable leading of the Spirit.”
To be perfectly honest, the future is terrifying. But I am not afraid of it. The foggy enigma of the future is not the definitive story of who I am. My identity is not dependent on things I may or may not accomplish. Where I find myself is in the attitude that approaches that terrifying mystery.
In the Jewish tradition, Paul Keim likes to say, people face the past and are pulled into the future by the seat of their pants. So the future becomes a breathless adrenaline rush, the moment at the top of the roller coaster when you scream because you see the whole world open up below you and finally understand, just a little bit more clearly, where you are in it.
Hillary Watson is a senior Bible and religion major from Seattle.