“So . . . what’s next??”
The dreaded question for every graduate.
It’s been a few years (plus a few more!) since I graduated from high school and university, but I still remember this sense that, come graduation, I needed to have a roadmap of my future aspirations ready to explain in one easy sentence. No problem, right? Should be easy enough! (Insert “zany face” emoji here.)
But thankfully, with age has come a small smattering of wisdom, and I’ve learned to ask a different question: “What makes you happy?”
A few years ago, I was introduced to the following quote from Frederick Buechner: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
This quote redefined vocation and calling for me. It shifted the focus of the question from things like career and profession, to meaningful participation in the Kingdom of God.
Recently, I spoke with a group of Grade 12 students from RJC High School in Rosthern, Sask. I shared Buechner’s quote with them, alongside the story of a dear friend who found her calling in her passion for fiction, and Max Lucado’s beloved classic, You Are Special. We spent time connecting the dots (and stars) of who they are, with where God might be calling them next.
I invited the youth to think about what makes them happy. More than just pictures of puppies and kittens—cute as those might be—we talked about how the deep joy they feel when they draw, spend time outside or make people laugh, can lead them to the place(s) where they can find a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging.
This conversation might be especially relevant for graduates, but it seems to have something to offer at any stage in life.
When we stop to think about how these things that make us deeply happy can meet a deep hunger in the world, a pretty amazing thing happens. We start to both live into, and live out of, the image of God that resides within us. God made us special. The gifts that we have, the things we like and dislike, our strengths and our growing edges, are all perfectly knit together in a way that meets the deep hunger of the world in a way that no one else can.
There’s nothing wrong with asking someone, “What comes next?” but I love the look of surprise on a person’s face when, instead, they are asked what makes them happy. To remind them that who they are is part of God’s plan for their life, and for the coming of the Kingdom. May we all be so lucky to ponder such a question.
Kirsten Hamm-Epp lives out her deep gladness sharing stories about God’s love as regional church minister for Mennonite Church Saskatchewan, and she enjoys making zany faces with her family.