Life is not a Straight Line

Best Regards, Live Through This, 30 May 2023
What's next?

How many of you have been asked “what’s next”? Indonesians especially like to ask what others will do after a phase of life passes. For example, “What are you going to do after college? When are you getting married? When will you have kids? What’s your plan for retirement?” These kinds of questions might affect each person differently. Some might feel annoyed, some might take it seriously, some might feel anxious, or some might overthink it. 


Two of my acquaintances shared interesting prayer requests recently: to live a problem-free life and to figure out what to do next. Firstly, it means that life equals problems. Secondly, it means that life should continue and we should follow it. It is interesting to find different perspectives about life this way. Do you agree with one of them?


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


Well, society says that after school years, we have to go to college or get a job. Then, we have to work hard and have a partner. Then, we have to get married and have kids. It’s like there is a pattern that we have to follow as a human being, a part of the society we live in. It’s like there is a typical order of how stages of life should go from one point to another. “We have to” shows that we seem to have no choice about these stages of life and its order. It’s like we are forced to follow the pattern and order in order to live as a decent human being in the society. 


Unconsciously, we often perceive life as a line; there are dots that we jump into from one to another, from time to time. From a certain point in life, we move on to another, and so on and so forth. Even a saying says, “Life must go on.” It’s like there’s no traffic light or road signs–just plain roads with confusing intersections. Well, sometimes life is like a line–but what if it doesn’t?


How can each one of us have different order of life stages? One can work, then go to college, then can get married. Another can get married, have kids, then go to college. It seems that there isn't an exact rule of how everything should go on, no? 


It seems that life has a knack for bothering us with its demands and problems. Sometimes it’s like a rollercoaster, and sometimes it’s upside down. Life demands that we go from stages to stages and it never lacks an idea to put some problems in every stage. For every person, these ideas and stages are customized in different ways. Therefore, how each one of us cope with every problem in every stage of life might be different. That’s why we have to know our way around everything.


Photo by Yuris Alhumaydy on Unsplash


In a way, living actually needs art. We have to develop certain creativity to face different things in different phases of our life. One might not face confusion in deciding what college major they want to enroll in, but they have difficulties in deciding what kind of job to get. One might experience the opposite. One can be sure about building a family, and another can be sure of living alone. What we feel or think about financial freedom might differ between one to another. Since we think, feel, and act differently, it means we need to customize and find out our ways to deal with life’s demands and problems. 


For me, life is sometimes like overlapping or intersecting circles constantly moving. Sometimes we hop in certain circles–community groups, church, fellowship, friends, etc. Those circles might intersect one another. For example, we might have a friend who is also our colleague. As a person, our life aspects might also intersect with others’. For example, we worry about whether I enjoy our jobs and we meet others in youth fellowship who experience similar things. These intersecting things are what unite us in a group or community. They enable us to relate with one another and feel what they feel. These shared feelings usually can create a bonding between one another. Knowing that others experience similar things, we might not feel as bad as before about our lives.


“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

David wrote that verse in Psalms 16:11 to express how God is the one who can show how our life goes on. It is only in God that we feel sufficient joy and pleasure. Even on the bumpy and slippery road, He is our headlight and road sign who direct us in the path of righteousness. Even in devastating situations, He is our jar of wine who fulfills our cup with abundant joy. 


Jehovah Jireh–He provides in every situation in different ways. Not always through spending time alone with God, but sometimes through people around us. Not always through reading Bible verses, but sometimes through an Instagram post. Not always through a sermon, but sometimes through comfort from a close friend. What we need to do is sharpen our senses so we can grasp His providence well. It is an art to be able to see, listen, touch, taste, and smell God’s blessing in our daily lives. That’s why it’s also an art to comprehend how God guides us to face our life demands and problems. His guidance helps us customize different ways to cope with different situations. His guidance perfects our art of life.


Mother Teresa said, “Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is a beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, we must take it.” Yes, life is so much more than we perceive. Life is so much more than life itself. Life is entirely exciting, beautiful, and challenging, yet depressing, messy, and difficult at the same time. Important thing is how we cherish it and get on with it. We may not follow society’s pattern or fulfill its demands, but we surely can follow God’s guidance. As we know that life needs an art to live it, we should also develop a sense of art to discern God’s guidance and face every problem in life.

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