There’s a lot of emphasis placed on firsts, on beginnings. Especially working in the childcare field for so long, there’s always high celebration when they say their first word or take their first step, or write their names for the first time.
But lately I’ve been seeing many more lasts.
The end of the semester has come for college kids; the impending summer vacation breathing down our necks as we push through last exams, papers, and projects. All the high schools in Georgia are preparing for their graduation commencement ceremonies and the parties to be filled with memories and celebration are reserving dates on the calendar.
I found the comic image for this post several months ago and it made me laugh, because I’m just a silly confused caterpillar who can’t figure out where her wings are. For this “not-so-senior,” it isn’t always easy watching it happen to everyone but you.
As the announcements are mailed out and the confetti strewn across the lawn from celebratory pictures, doubt settles in because I am not where I had expected to be at this point in my life.
Several years ago the pastor at my college church spoke a sermon that has stuck with me. He loves alliterations, and so I’m sure it was filled to the brim with them, but the overlying title was “Don’t Lag on the Last Leg.”
In this message he shared a story about triathlon competitors, and how much they train to finish in a time deemed acceptable by their coaches, their competitors, the spectators around them. He shared this as the motto of a young coach, who made it the advice he gave to all his athletes. “Don’t lag on the last leg.”
To complete a race with not just one, but three different sports with three different skill sets? What an amazing talent. But it all depends on the athlete never quitting, especially when they begin the last leg, and their energy and focus are waning.
With the end of the semester coming, and graduation quickly approaching, it’s easy to start lagging, especially if you realize you aren’t finishing as quickly as you had hoped.
When you’re young, they instruct you to make a multitude of choices about your future and what it holds. Do you want to get married? How many kids will you have? Where will you live and will you pay for it with your salary or your life companion’s?
They prep you for the real world by sending you off to college expecting you to have already decided on a course that will determine the rest of your life, and there’s no room for second guessing, because you’re supposed to finish in four years.
Let me interrupt this train by saying how proud I am of my friends who were able to complete their time here in four years. I am so incredibly proud of them. Seriously. It’s no easy task to get a college degree, and to finish it in four years or even less? What a major accomplishment you can hang your tassel on the rest of your life.
But what happens to those of us who take a little longer? An extra semester, year, or more? Is it okay to feel like a caterpillar watching all your friends fly on without you?
When you’re the one feeling left behind, like everyone is moving forward and you’re just stuck, it’s hard to remember that God has a plan for all of it. And if I’m being honest, it isn’t something I’ve been outrageously excited about. I’ve spent much of the last month and a half wondering what I did wrong to prevent me from getting to celebrate this joyous occasion alongside my friends.
Metaphorically of course. Realistically, I know that when you fail a class, work 40 hour weeks during the semester, and take 12 hour class-loads instead of 15 hour ones, you fall a little bit behind. I know exactly what choices I made along the way to find myself here.
After a month and a half of confusion and frustration, I’ve finally realized that if I had to do it over again I would make the exact same choices.
I don’t regret the friends I made in World Literature, even if I failed the class.
I don’t regret the early mornings and late nights that came with teaching preschoolers everything from the alphabet to the love of Jesus Christ.
I don’t regret taking my time.
Tomorrow night some of my best friends in the entire world will be gathered under the sweltering Valdosta sun (despite the 7 p.m. graduation time, we don’t call it Satan’s armpit for nothing.) Their names will be called and with the entire community watching they will end their time here at university. They’ll do it all with huge smiles because God has them exactly where he wants them to be, all according to His great plan. What an amazing night it will be.
And I’ll be there, cheering them on because I know in my heart that His plans are immeasurably more than I can dream, and I wouldn’t be here six more months if this wasn’t where he wanted me to be. I’ve got one last leg of this journey to go, and I’m not giving up or giving in to the doubt of the caterpillar.
I’m pushing forward, remembering that God is just taking a little extra time to make sure I’m ready for my wings.
Tomorrow, I’ll still be a caterpillar. I’ll be the caterpillar watching as my friends fly off to bigger and better things and I can’t be more proud of them all. I can’t be any more excited to watch as they achieve great things. It’s an honor that God allowed me to play a small part in their time here, even though I’ll still be a caterpillar.
But I’ll be a caterpillar filled with excitement, because my wings will be ready exactly when God planned for them to be.
His timing is so much greater, and now more than ever, I’m thankful for it.
HEBREWS 6:19 SAYS,
“We have this HOPE as an anchor for the soul. A HOPE both sure, and steadfast.”