Recently, I was in the Starbucks located in the Nigh University Center of UCO in Edmond, Okla. I graduated in 2009 from UCO and often visit the school when an opportunity arises. I had given my order on this day and was waiting for my order toward the other end of the coffee place. As I stood there looking at the wall in front of me, a memory from before the existence of this Starbucks came flooding in:
We (our whole UCO crew) were in the beginning years of our UCO experience and getting to know each other better. We had started a tradition of throwing surprise birthday parties for people in our group, and one party in particular was thrown in this exact area where this Starbucks now stands. Except back then there was this really comfortable red couch and a chest/coffee table thing we stored our stuff in. We sat there so often and laughed and made stories up and ate lunch and threw random food events, memories that will last a lifetime. But for this particular party, which was for Ben Paul, someone had brought in a bunch of silly string and put a lot of it on Ben.
And somehow in the course of that birthday party, some of that silly string ended up stuck on the brick wall. Time went on, and that silly string remained on that brick wall. I remember constantly noticing it on that wall and wondering if it would ever be taken down months after. The couch disappeared after someone (a professor, I heard) complained that there were people sleeping there. Thus, the couch was removed and more chairs/tables were brought in instead. We often discussed missing the couch. As time went on, more parties were thrown, including a huge surprise party for one person, and just a lot of great memories that will never disappear. Also, eventually, the silly string came down, of course (I forget when).
But here I stand in 2011, in that same physical place. In the place of that brick wall, there is a shiny Starbucks wall that never gives the impression of the old “Lakeside Cafe” that once existed there, a place where our group back then made great memories.
But I learned something in that moment. Your life may be filled with great seasons, where you meet some amazing people and make amazing memories. You’ll have great moments that will make no sense to people when you tell them about it later, and the humor of it will be gone, but you know that you just had to be there to really enjoy that moment for what it was worth.
But then at some point, the silly string comes down. The comfortable, cozy seasons of life will not last forever. And you must face reality.
And part of understanding reality is understanding that God has a great purpose for your life, and you must focus on fulfilling that and not wasting your time on things that won’t last.
And the greatest lesson you learn may be that even though you fall into the lowest of lows (that you think is the lowest of lows for you), God will use your experiences to raise you up higher than you ever expect Him to, if you humble yourself before Him. I was standing on a balcony on the campus recently and had an overall view of the campus. As I stood there, I saw all the locations where I had different experiences. And I realized that through every one of those experiences, whether they were good or bad or even devastating, God had a grand purpose, and because of Him only, I am where I am today, despite those bad experiences that I thought would hold me back.
I say all this to make two points, partially to soon-to-be graduates:
-Enjoy where you are in life now; don’t rush it, and just enjoy it to the full extent. Let God use you where you are, and be open to being transformed by Him. But also know that the “silly string” phase of life comes to an end, in some ways. Not to say that life can’t still be enjoyed as much, but the focus of life changes with more education, jobs, marriage, children, etc. So enjoy being where you currently are, but also be aware that at some point, these things will come to an end and you will move on to something greater, part of the plan of fulfilling His great purpose for your life.
-Even though you think you have completely screwed up and ruined any chance you may have had for success, know that NOTHING surprises God. God knows and loves you, and He knows exactly what you will go through. And as a result, He will give you the strength to make it through and use what you go through to make you stronger in the end. Simply believing that He has it all under control will make things so much better.
To add on to this story, today me and Ben work close to each other in Oklahoma City. God has been faithful in so many ways to both of us, and it is no doubt b/c of the mercy of God that we have all we do. It shows that God knows what He’s doing, so we just need to trust Him.
Until next time!