‘So, what are your plans for next year?’ – the most-asked question of any final-year undergrad, ever.
I’ve heard it approximately five thousand times this week already, being back in town for my penultimate(!) undergrad term at Cambridge. I’ve heard friends voice their dreams and worries about the future, telling stories of applications, rejections, acceptances, and plans being made firm – or not.
It’s an urgent time, full of incredible opportunity and the anticipation of (often unasked-for) change. A huge shift of the imagination into the big, wide-wild world. In conversation with some third-year friends, I happened to mention the ‘g-word’, and one of them immediately banned me from saying it again! Graduation looms. The future is out there. Adventure is out there! – with all its terrifying excitement.
As I’ve let my mind settle around this situation, one clear and simple tune has risen above the rest. It’s a song I learned at summer camp, years ago. In the years since then, I’ve oft-repeated it to myself when I can’t get to sleep, singing it into the quiet night with a quieter voice. These are the words:
As you travel through this life,
In your plans and in your dreams,
And in everything you do,
May you know that deep inside,
As you hear the Father’s voice,
And the songs of love he sings to you:
He says that you’re amazing,
He says that you’re his special one,
He says that you’re his precious child,
And there’s no-one else like you.
He says that you are beautiful,
Do you know that you make him smile?
Do you know that you’re his heart’s delight?
Do you know that you’re amazing?
He says that you’re amazing.
I remember loving this song when I learned it. I was a shy, curious ten-year-old, away on camp with my best friend. My biggest worry was whether we’d get to swim in the outdoor pool the next day – yet singing this song made me think of wilder things. The big, wide world; the deep and hidden things of God; the ocean of opportunity mysteriously labelled ‘The Future’. (This is not just rhetoric: I have thought of the future as being like an ocean for as long as I can remember.)
Every night we sung it: As you travel through this life, in your plans and in your dreams. All of us were just kids wondering at and barely comprehending the possibility of a lifetime’s worth of travel, plans and dreams. Back then, I never would’ve imagined even the smallest amount of the things I’ve done in the decade since. Who, when they’re ten, can even begin to know the person they’ll be or the things they’ll have seen by the time they’re twenty-one? Who, when they’re twenty-one, can know what they’ll have done by the time they’re twenty-five, thirty, forty, or ninety-nine?
As we dive into whatever is next we cannot know where the tide will take us. It will most probably be to places we never expected. Yet we can know (even, and perhaps especially, if you’ve never known it before) the truth of what I so loved learning when I was ten: God sings over every single one of us with infinite love and care, never letting us go, never forgetting us, always delighting in us, always smiling over us.
We can trust that his hands hold us even as we risk the ocean: as we risk applying for that job, internship or church placement; as we take a leap in moving away from home, or moving back home; as we decide to study for a little while longer. His hands hold us through everything – all our travels, plans, and dreams – and they will never, ever, let us go. Peace is a Person, not a place.
So that’s what we’ll hold onto the next time someone asks us what we plan to do next year. Whatever comes, there is a God who will be with us. Adventure is indeed out there.
The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
But will rejoice over you with singing.’