Since returning from Europe, we’ve been asked this question more times than I can count. If you’re a twenty something, then maybe you too can relate. Of course, it’s possible that the awkwardness of living an unpredictable life plagues other generations too. I suspect it does. And maybe you too know how difficult it can be to string together words in some sort of an answer to the “what next?” question.
As a historian, I’m much more inclined to answer this question with stories of my past than with predictions of the future. So this means that if you ask me, I will likely tell you about moments in our trip that convinced us that Victoria is still the best place for us. Keep in mind that when we left it was with every intention of discerning our future direction. Move back to Smithers? Apply for a dream job? Press on towards that lucrative History PhD? Become a professional Instagrammer? It was anyone’s guess. Thankfully, a few key moments along the way brought some clarity to this muddle, like…
- That time we were sitting on a gorgeous windswept beach in Greece and Jakob said “Man, I just want to sell a car right now.” Me: “(?!?!)”
- That time we were sipping pints in a tiny dutch pub and a wise-beyond-his-years homesteader told us how difficult it was to raise his children far from their extended family
- That time we crashed on the couch of a Canadian english teacher and long-time resident of Istanbul and she shared the complexities of expat life
- That time I was working in a particularly cozy archive in rural France and I felt a profound sense of acceptance and thankfulness for my somewhat obscure and possibly irrelevant degree
- That time we stepped off the plane and Jakob took an actual real breath through his nose (thanks to that sweet salty ocean air) and I heard the irresistible call of my hippie grow-your-own-food roots
But lately I’ve realized that it’s not just my historical training that calls me to ponder the past, it’s also my faith. Throughout the Bible, God calls us to remember our story. The story of God’s faithfulness. The story of human failure. The story of unending forgiveness.
The story I’ve been reading lately is that of a shepherd boy turned warrior king. According to bestselling author, Malcom Gladwell, David was the best kind of underdog: a smart skilled boy who knew his limitations and knew he could win if he didn’t play by the rules. He was supposed to beat Goliath with an honourable bronze age duel, but instead he pulled out militia style wilderness farming tactics and killed the hulking Philistine hero with an average slingshot and a stone no bigger than a paintball. Gladwell even speculates that Goliath had some major vision problems connected to his excessive height growth disorder.
That’s why Goliath says, “am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” When of course, David didn’t have any sticks in his hand at all just “five smooth stones that went into the sling and the sling went round and round.” So according to Gladwell, David is a hero because he used his underdog status to his advantage instead of playing by the rules of the powerful. How inspiring. Everyone loves an underdog. But Gladwell missed what every Sunday school kid I’ve ever taught knows intuitively. David wasn’t a particularly talented or even flukey underdog. He was a person of immense honest, gut-wrenching, embarrassing, and courageous faith. He danced undignified in the streets to praise God, he poured out his deepest doubts on paper, and he continued to run to God for refuge no matter how scandalous his family’s sexual drama (hint: there’s more than just the Bathsheba fiasco).
How often do you think people asked David: “What’s next?” amidst all the turmoil of life as a king fighting for a contested throne in a fractured kingdom. How often do you think he whispered to himself with tears in his eyes and blood on his hands: “What’s next?” Most of all, what answers did he receive from God that lead him time and time again to write things that sound a lot like this: “Put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore” (Psalm 131:3), “In God I trust and am not afraid.” (Psalm 56:11), “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (Psalm 3:6), and “The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7).
So will I run to God in faith? Or will I plead the arts major underdog victimized by a STEM tech start-up world? Will I look to my creative analytical mind to make myself relevant in a difficult job market or will I look with eyes of faith upon my degree and trust that God called me to this place on purpose?
How do you see yourself as an underdog today and in whose strength will you seek to overcome it? Where will you find your courage? No matter what’s next.