She was going to be a doctor, and we were all rooting for her–as a matter of fact, we still are! She’s a bright and personable young woman, who I think will be phenomenal as the first in our extended family to become a physician. And while I think she’ll still make it, it’s beginning to look like some of the choices she made–coupled with circumstances completely beyond her control–are making it more challenging for her to stay the course.
“Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.” (Proverbs 24:27 NLT)
When our oldest was a high school senior, his friend set him up with a date for prom. It clicked even though he homeschooled and she went to a local high school, and afterward she started calling to invite him out. For better or worse that was when he and I had “the talk”–probably not the one you’re thinking of, but one all parents should have with their children.
I told him he had a long road ahead of him, and that if he started dating now, he’d want a car to take her out in, which would mean he’d need at least a part-time job for the car and the insurance and the gas, as well as money for a nicer wardrobe, and to pay for the actual going out; the shows or restaurants and what-not. In other words, his mind would become pre-occupied with living in the here-and-now rather than with preparing for the future. I explained that if he started dating now there was also a chance he might at some point in the not-too-distant future decide to marry, and have to stop working toward his degree altogether to go to work to support himself and his new family–that this would be the end of his education. I’m grateful that he took it to heart, stopped seeing her, and went on to earn his master’s degree and begin a career in architecture. Yet many young people fall short of their goals because they don’t understand that you need to first acquire the tools for financing your life before you start living your life. That’s what today’s verse is teaching us.
The reality is that there is a certain limited time period in a person’s very early adulthood during which he or she can extend childhood–figuratively speaking–and squeeze in an education before they become distracted with living. Certainly college students “live,” but I’m referring to engaging in the behaviors of those who have their future means of survival–the skills with which they will finance their lifestyle–dealt with and out of the way.
These days few of us derive our livelihood from farming, so we’re not literally going to prepare fields for sowing crops, but we do need to acquire the education and training required to properly support ourselves and our family before we become distracted with actually finding a spouse and having children–before we begin life in ernest. Yet far too many young people get this paradigm backward; they begin living too early–dating, working, spending and getting into debt–jeopardizing their commitment to the difficulties inherent in acquiring a higher education.
What do I mean by living? Simply becoming distracted–getting a job that takes up too much of you in terms of time and energy; taking on debt such as a car note or a financial obligation like an apartment that will require you to focus more and more on work rather than your education; getting into a personal relationship that will take your focus away from your studies.
I believe that’s what happened here. She started out great, but she got a job in retail–which, unlike most college work-study campus jobs, demands much in terms of time and energy. She actually did really well and earned enough to buy a car and get her own apartment, and even started dating a guy who worked with her; then, she ended up needing a surgery which set her back a semester behind the others who started with her. She had absolutely no control over that, yet it is the things we can control through the decisions we make, coupled with those we can’t that God allows into our life, that can make it challenging for us to persevere and threaten to overwhelm us.
So what should we do? How should we structure our lives so we have the greatest chance of success at completing our education? I’m still hopeful for this young lady–I know she can do it if she sets her mind to it–but the way we need to handle our teen and young adult years is by recognizing that they will determine the remainder of our life; our place in the world–who we are, how much we will earn, the experiences we will go through, whether we will be in a position to help others less fortunate or whether we ourselves will be among those less fortunate. It is difficult for young people to wait beginning their lives in ernest, but it has to be done–the payoff of setting your personal life on snooze for a couple of years now, during the potentially sixty or more years of the remainder of your life, will be more than worth it!
Dear Lord God,
Help me be wise and prepare my source of livelihood first before beginning my life in ernest. Amen.