What’s Next? Easing the Pain of Post-Grad Discernment
By Erin Breen
Day 1 of 3
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4: 18-22 (NIV)
A question graduating seniors get at least 100 times during their last year in college is “what’s next?” For most college seniors, the time after graduation is the first time in a (typically) 22-year-old’s life that “what’s next” isn’t just more school.
It’s potentially the first time you have to ask yourself “where am I going?” and “who/what am I taking with me?” It’s also quite possibly the first time the answers to those questions are unknown, and that wide open space can be terrifying.
When Jesus called the apostles, his directions were brief and his explanation absent. “Come, follow me.” This instruction didn’t come with a five-year plan, nor was it presented to the disciples by someone they already knew and trusted intimately. It was an invitation made by a stranger to join something new. If it wasn’t reason the disciples were working off of, it must have been gut; it must’ve been an internal yearning to see what this stranger could offer that motivated them to put down their fishing nets.
That judgment of and movement towards what makes us feel most alive—most connected to something bigger than ourselves—is discernment. A lot of times, discerning takes longer than an instant. It includes looking at the practical, rational logistics and assessing circumstantial needs in addition to what tugs at our hearts and makes us feel close to God.
But eventually, both discernment and the apostles’ actions end with the same requirement—trust. Trust that we know ourselves well enough to understand what we need, what we desire, and what will bring us joy. But it also requires trust in God. Trust in divine accompaniment—trust that within the invitation “come, follow me” is the intention for God to lead us somewhere. And if that somewhere is anything like God, it’ll be Good.
A prayer by Thomas Merton:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”