Life after graduation: 40 hours, generosity, and asking the question, “who will you be?”

I LOVE working 40-hour weeks.

I think it has something to do with how broken-up and random a collegiate schedule is—go to class, have a break, go to another, do a paper, go to work for three to four hours, work on homework, sleep, wake up, lather, rinse, repeat. I always loathed my college schedule. It left me far too much time to stay on campus and not enough time to go home. I felt unsettled every day, and my personality is such that I hate being unsettled. If I have to stay the night in Berea because I’ll be there for 20 hours at a time, my heart rate jumps because I’m so scared I’ll forget something important, and I just don’t feel at home. (Not that Berea isn’t home, but if I’m too far away from where I live, I get nervous and antsy. That’s why I don’t like big cities.)

But with a 40-hour per week schedule, things are so much more smooth. I know exactly where I’ll be from 7-5 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. I know that on Thursday, I get to be off and do whatever I want to do (today I’m having coffee, doing yard work, working out, and who knows what.) But I just mentally appreciate the structure and I love being able to know what’s coming.

And the money—let’s be real here. It’s awful nice to go from making just over a hundred dollars a week and dreading the non-pay week to making probably twice that (I haven’t actually gotten a check for my 40-hour weeks yet.) But that’s compounded by the fact that I’m gone for so long on the days I work that I hardly have time to spend the money I earn!

Something I’ve noticed about myself since I graduated is that I find myself wanting to be more and more generous. If I’m meeting a friend for coffee, I want to buy his drink. If a friend cooks me dinner, I want to give them something to reimburse. I find myself wanting to come through for others, but not just because I’m trying to be a hero or anything of the sort, but I think it’s because I realize how many people came through for me while I was in school—fed me, let me stay at their house, let me spend time with them, bought me stuff, etc. and I want desperately to reciprocate, if only to show that I don’t take it for granted.

I also notice in this a pattern in God’s economy—reciprocation doesn’t happen in a top-down-back-up fashion. You don’t repay the person who helped you, but you repay by helping someone else who needs your help. I’ve been fortunate to have people who graduated 4-8 years before I did model how to help someone (myself) through college, and now I want to help other college students, and I don’t feel obligated (in a sense) to help those who helped me. Hopefully that makes sense, but perhaps to make a more concise statement, I’ll say this: the people who helped me through school don’t need my help. But there are others who do need my help, and in helping them, I’m repaying those who helped me by emulating their character and showing that I’ve learned from their example.

I also am learning the value of a weekend and/or a proper break from work. I used to be unable to fathom why people didn’t want to make plans on a Saturday, but only wanted to relax. That was because I spent hours on end every week by myself and I desperately wanted to get out, but my friends who worked a full week were exhausted from the mental strain of work, being around people, having less free time during the week, etc. It all makes sense now! Saturday (and now Thursday) is a haven, a safe place, a sanctuary. I understand now (at least to a degree) the sacrifice involved in getting your children into a soccer league and giving up your Saturday mornings to watch them play, or helping with a church event on Saturdays, etc. Weekends are precious!

Finally, I am learning that this isn’t necessarily a “transition.” What I mean by that is this: at least in my case, there is no “next thing.” I’ll be at this job at least through the summer, and probably longer. This is where I am, and as a consequence, this is where I have to be. I can’t spend any time wishing something else would come along. If I want something else, I have to look for it. But mostly, and outside of a job situation, this is where I decide what habits I’ll practice, how I’ll prioritize, etc. When I graduated from college, all my excuses vanished. Most things now are a choice. I make a choice as to whether or not I’ll sacrifice an evening to see a friend, or spend it at home alone. I make a choice to sleep and take care of my body as opposed to going out and staying up late engaging in meaningless nonsense. I make a choice as to who gets my time, what I do with my money (besides pay my bills,) what hobbies I engage in, seeking the Lord and hearing Him, etc. Outside of my 7-5 on days I work, my time is mine to decide what to do with, and that’s a huge responsibility. But maturity happens now, not later. It’s up to me.

 

 

Aside: I couldn’t figure out how to fit this into the lessons I’m learning at the moment, but I wanted to give an update on what’s happening at work. I’m the longest-tenured non-Purdy at Purdy’s, and I’m able to do more behind-the-scenes stuff than I could when I was in school (mostly just stuff like checking inventory and making sure we know what to order, but somehow that feels like a lot.) One of my bosses is pregnant and we’ll meet my ‘pseudo-niece’ in early July. I’ll be working my tail off during that time at the shop with my other boss and co-workers. It’s a great season that I’m really looking forward to.

the Author.

I’ve had this thought for a few months and haven’t done anything about it to this point.

This morning, I was thinking about the passage (I’m not going to pretend I knew where it was off the top of my head, I’ll freely admit I’m quite poor with my references) in which the writer (it turns out to be Hebrews, so we’re not sure who it is) says that we, as we run the race that is before us, are to look to Jesus, who is the author and the finisher of our faith.

I like to think I know a thing or two about writing, and I find it very telling that Jesus is called the author of our faith.

Our faith was His idea.

Do you realize that you didn’t make yourself a Christian? Do you realize you don’t keep yourself a Christian? Do you realize that nothing you do is going to get you into heaven, save to believe that Jesus is the Christ, and that His sinless life, death, and resurrection provided a way for mankind to live with God?

How incredible to think that our very faith was the idea of God, not our own! To think that our transformation is the work of God (2 Thessalonians 2:13,) our purpose was established in Him (2 Timothy 1:9,) our lives exist in Him (Acts 17:28.)

 

Note to myself, and take this for you, too–my faith is not my own work. it’s God’s.

Life is unfair. Grace is more unfair.

“When will I ever get what I deserve?”

I’ve been letting this question roll around in my mind for a month or so now. Not necessarily because there’s something I’ve been waiting for that I think I earned, but because I’ve heard the word “deserve” thrown around so much and so easily, both when people talk to me as well as when I eavesdrop on others.

“You deserve someone great.”

“You deserve better than that.”

“You really deserve a break.”

“You deserved a celebration!”

 

I’m to the point now when I don’t like using the word “deserve.” I recently graduated from college, and I’ve been told that I “deserved” to have a party. I actually disagree (though I really appreciated my party and had a cracking time, thanks mom.) I disagree because when I was in college, I spent countless afternoons playing Xbox for hours and hours. I disagree because I skipped class so many times. I had my nose glued to my phone playing games and checking Facebook. How exactly did I “deserve” any more of a party than I have already had?

 

I think it’s also funny when people use the word “deserve” in talking about romantic relationships. I sometimes think about how great of a girl I “deserve” based on my merits of not having past relationships, baggage, etc. or the fact that I’m actively in ministry, I’m a “good Christian guy,” etc. and then I realize how rubbish that is because relationships change things and change people, and a person who goes into a relationship does not come out the same! Responses to people—friends, family, even your boyfriend/girlfriend—as a single person compared to as a person in a relationship are completely different! I reflect on my relationship with my now-ex-girlfriend and think that I probably wasn’t as “good” of a Christian guy as I liked to think I was, and that the way I approached the relationship wasn’t what I’d envisioned in my head. Do I really “deserve” to be in a relationship?

 

For that matter, when did relationships become an entitlement? Why is it that, as people, we assume we are licensed to a spouse? As I once heard a politician say, marriage is a privilege, not a right. But that’s another matter altogether.

 

Realistically, don’t you think that as a race, we’d have caught on to the idea that we really don’t ‘deserve’ anything? How many times do we have to ask questions such as “when will I get what I deserve” or “why do bad things happen to good people” before we understand this? Let me ask you another question: why do good things happen to bad people? Why does an upright, well-standing man who is responsible with his finances, takes care of his body, and fiercely loves his family get diagnosed with leukemia, while the man who beats his wife and smokes a pack a day get a promotion at work and have a doctor’s appointment that reveals he’s doing great? Why does a drunk driver hit another car at 60 miles an hour, killing or injuring a car full of kids while he walks away practically unscathed?

 

The answer is simple: life isn’t fair.

 

The beauty of that statement, however, is that there is so much I deserve that I’m not getting because in His mercy, God extends common grace—things such as shelter, food, clothing—to take care of His people. The legal response to sin is death—that’s its ‘wages’ (Romans 6:23) like I earn wages at my job for the work I do—so every time I sin (which is often enough to warrant some serious death, even though Jesus does live in me and He is sanctifying me, and making me more like him) I should be rewarded or paid with death, not mercy. But there is common grace extended to all humanity, which is the grace wrapped up in the promise that God will not destroy the earth again like He did after the flood, and there’s saving grace, which is above common grace. Saving grace wipes out the sin debt that is accumulated by everything I do which should be rewarded with death.

 

Common grace is like owing the IRS, but they’re not calling you all the time to remind you of that debt. You still owe it, but you’re allowed to spend your money however you’d like.

Saving grace is like the IRS calling you up and saying the debt is forgiven.

 

This metaphor is imperfect because you may be able to pay back the IRS, but you can’t pay back God. Fortunately, you don’t have to because Jesus did. So why stop at common grace when you can get saving grace?

Why stop at not getting what you deserve when you can get what you really don’t deserve?

Life as a graduate.

On Saturday, I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology.

 

I’ve been asked the same question time after time: “How does it feel?”

To be honest, I’m not sure. It’s a hard question to answer for several reasons. One, college is always a complex process. When you start a semester, it’s easy. As it progresses, it becomes impossibly difficult. But then as the semester begins to wane, and the final projects are turned in, it gets easy, but then one must wait for final exams to be over. Even then, it’s hard to believe it’s actually over. I remember sitting on my bed two weeks after my next-to-last semester and trying to convince myself that it was actually over. I think that’s due to the fact that semesters last for 16 weeks, and the schedules are set, etc. Life becomes routine, and after that, it’s difficult to change that routine.

So on one hand, it hasn’t sunk in, and on the other, it doesn’t feel like all that much of an accomplishment. I don’t mean to lessen the significance of the feat for anyone else, but I can only speak for myself–and I know how little I worked in school: how many papers I wrote in one night, how many exams I didn’t study for, how many assignments I intentionally neglected, etc. But to counter that point, I made it to where I could afford that intentional neglect. So, I suppose I will let the reader decide whether or not this is a good thing.

Anyway, I’ve had a few theories as to when it will really sink in that I’ve graduated.

1. When I went to Indianapolis today (Which I’ll discuss in depth later, and that wasn’t it)

2. When I put in my first 40-hour week at Purdy’s (results pending, as I’m on vacation.)

3. When school starts back in August and I’m not going (that’s the one I’ve got my money on.)

Many people have asked me what the next step is for me, and I think I’m finally comfortable enough to say that I’ve been taking that step for a while. That is, if there has to be a next step. But the realization I’ve gained is that I’ve been able to lead a fairly normal life whilst in college–be with my family, work a job, hang out with friends, do ministry–and that now that I’ve graduated, I’m going to keep doing the same things I’ve been doing, with the exception of working full time and not part time. I’m satisfied with that.

I think that the question “what comes next” implies (ironically) that the last four years weren’t really serving a purpose, in a certain sense. Perhaps of career preparation, but why can’t college be life preparation? For me, that’s exactly what college was. I learned how to juggle work, friends, family, ministry, recreation, exercise, etc. while meeting deadlines and assignments, and turning in at least decent work. As it turns out, college has served as a perfect springboard for the “next step,” which is a step in the same direction I’ve been going in for the last four years! (I don’t know if the reader can perceive my distaste for the term “the next step,” but it’s evident in my mind.)

 

How’s this for a “next step?”

I’m fortunate enough to graduate from college debt-free.

I have a job at which I will be working 40 hours a week through the summer, at least–more or less, it’s until I decide to leave. And that’ll pay enough for me to get my own apartment in just a few months.

I’ve spent my time in college teaching children’s church, preaching, leading a life group, etc. only to continue doing so without the distraction of going to and from class, worrying about homework, etc.

I was generously given enough to afford a new laptop, and I still get to save more than double what I already had in savings.

I got to take a vacation in my first week after school.

(I was going to elaborate, but there’s not much to tell. Today I drove to Indianapolis, had breakfast at a coffee shop, froze from head to toe at an Indianapolis Indians game, and drove back, and I just get the week off work to relax and get my head back on straight, feet under me, etc.)

 

I think I’m in a pretty good spot. Life as a graduate is going to be just fine.