Gilland: Wrestling with life direction

I received some valuable advice when I was a young man. It went something like this: “Choose an occupation you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” That is one of those little tidbits of wisdom that actually seemed to carry a lot of punch.

As a young man, I knew more about what I didn’t want to do than what I really desired to accomplish. I could give you a laundry list of occupations for which I had no interest whatsoever. But for some time, I was truly short on knowing just exactly what I wanted to do.

So, initially I took the easy way – and started off with something I thought I would like, and that was teaching. After all, I loved helping others, and I had been told that I was able to communicate fairly clearly.

Elementary education seemed reasonable, so that is the path I chose, and I was on my way. At least, until I took a brand new course in my second semester of my freshman year. It was called, “Initial Experiences in Education.” Think of it as a first-year student teaching experience.

Functionally, I was given the task to spend three hours a week as a teacher’s assistant in a public school. Those teachers were happy to have us there, and they gave those like me who were in this program a lot of hands-on experience. I actually was able to lead the class for some segments of the day, and I could work one-on-one with students.

This gave me a real feel for what my days would be like as a teacher. I also had the opportunity to talk to real teachers in real jobs.

One purpose for the course was to weed out students who weren’t all that committed to teaching—and it certainly did that. But the staff also told me that, due to an abundance of available teachers, I would have to move to a large city up north if I expected to get a teaching job.

While I was grateful then for their honesty, and while I am so grateful for the many who had the commitment then (and still do today) to teach young people, I discovered that I didn’t have that kind of grace at that time, and I was back to square one, praying for wisdom and guidance. I was indeed grateful that I hadn’t spent four years of college in a degree field that would leave me disappointed.

That is when the unexpected happened—one of my required education major classes was speech class, and it was in that course that I met the adjunct professor who was well known in the community for being the program director at the CBS affiliate TV station.

He noted my angst about my current direction and drew me aside one day to inquire as to what I was going to do. When I confirmed that a change in major was imminent, he surprised me with a strong encouragement to go into communications and focus on radio and TV.

“I think you could make it,” he said.

That was all the encouragement I needed, and off I went into a completely unexpected and exciting direction, one that I quickly learned to love and enjoy.

I didn’t see that change coming…and that is the way it is with a lot of life changes. But afterward, as we look back over our shoulders, we can see that God had plans for our lives that we didn’t know about, and He gently and quietly nudged us this way, and that.

It might have appeared to be an unexpected coincidence at the time. But it really wasn’t. He was guiding us, leading us, all that time. And that is still His way today.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

I can honestly say that God’s ways and plans are always good for me, even if in the moment I might think otherwise. I have learned to trust Him, and accept those things that I can’t change. I know that He is guiding my path.

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