The Next Step

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes:-)

What a crazy week.

Yesterday, I finished my last final and completed the last bit of work I’ll ever have to do for high school. This coming Wednesday, I formally graduate with the rest of my LuHi peers. Last Wednesday was my last day of classes.

Wow.

The day of our last performance, I was an emotional mess, and I honestly thought I’d cry even more during the week, having so many goodbyes. But strangely, as all the goodbyes hit me like punches to the gut, I felt this peace come over me. I cried after our last chapel, and a little bit after my last day in class, but that’s all. This peace just washes over me every time I feel grief at the loss of this season of life.

I can’t explain it. I don’t feel ready to grow up. I’m terrified to jump into adult life without any time in college to ease me into it. I’m terrified to pursue my career as an author because it really doesn’t pay great for a long time. It feels like most of my friends are leaving me. It’s scary.

So this peace doesn’t make sense. I didn’t pull it from inside of me. It baffles me. And that’s how I know it’s from God.

I want to tell you a story.

One week ago today, I had my last performance.

I’d never joined theater before, so I was skeptical at the beginning. But I felt so welcomed right off the bat, and I fit in seamlessly. It was a blast. It honestly changed my life. So saying goodbye, after having only a short time with these wonderful people, was heartbreaking.

I walked out that last night to a crowd mostly full of people I didn’t know, and the tears started flowing. I hugged my friends and completely broke down.

I don’t know why it hit me so hard. But I just realized, right then and there: I’m graduating. I have to say goodbye to these people, most of them, for forever. I might never see some of my dear friends again. Worse, I might forget about them. And they’ll likely forget about me. It hit me so hard.

I was a mess. Mascara smudging across my eyes, eyes burning cherry red. It was not a pretty sight, folks. One of my best friends (who somehow held in her tears, I don’t know how), asked me why I was so sad.

“I’m not ready to graduate,” I sobbed into her shoulder.

“Baby, you’re ready,” she said. “You are so equipped for this next step. You’re ready.”

I didn’t believe her in the moment.

There was this one little girl (I’ll call her Sophie to keep her privacy) who was part of the kid’s chorus, too. I’d just fallen in love with her over the course of the play, and she quickly became my favorite. That last night, I spotted her in the crowd, ran up to her, and melted into her tiny little arms.

I felt a little bit bad because I think all my crying freaked her out a bit. Her mom, who was watching us, started tearing up, too. It was very sad.

“I’m going to miss you,” I said. I couldn’t say anymore because I was crying too hard.

Sophie smiled at me and patted my shoulder. “It’s going to be okay,” she said.

Both my friend and Sophie had so much peace at the end of the musical, and I was a crying mess who refused to accept the reality of the situation. But I think the difference was our trust in God’s plan.

I haven’t felt ready to graduate all year. It’s freaked me out. Of course I’m excited, but every time I thought about moving on, a shadow of fear and sadness would overshadow my future plans. And I think it’s because I convinced myself I trusted God’s plan when I really didn’t.

My friend and Sophie, although they were obviously sad to see the musical go, knew that the next chapter of life was in God’s hands, so there was nothing to fear. Nothing to grieve in a sense of utter loss. Because they knew they had already gained everything, so there was no longer anything to lose.

I think all year, I’ve been defending my future plans to so many people, they felt ‘wrong’ to begin with. My plans have always felt more unplanned than other plans. And I’ve convinced myself I should be scared because my plan is so different.

But these are lies from the devil.

It doesn’t matter if your plan is more planned or less planned. It’s God’s plan that prevails.

And this might sound like a cheesy Instagram caption, but bear with me:

It doesn’t matter what your future looks like, whether you’re 18 and going to college, 25 and graduating college, or 45 and having kids who are graduating, you should never be afraid of the next chapter. Because you know the author. And you know the ending.

That ending is heaven with Jesus Christ. And nothing, nothing on this earth, can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus. Nothing can separate us from that eternal reward, if we’ve invited Jesus into our lives. Fear has no place in our hearts because only Jesus lives there.

I want to encourage you, if you’re afraid for this next season of life in any way like I was and often still am:

Ask God for peace. That peace I was talking about earlier? I didn’t conjure that up inside of me. It was completely a gift from God.

Know God will use you no matter what your plans may be. If you choose to go to college, God will use you there. But if not, that doesn’t mean you’re not good enough for God’s purpose! You’re just as worthy, just as loved, just as powerful of a witness as any other child of God.

And be open to God’s editing. Sometimes, our plans and God’s don’t line up, so we need to be open to matching ours to His. I’m not awesome at this, so I need to hear this just as much as anyone else. But my prayer daily is, “your will be done over my own,” because I know His plan is far greater than what I could ever fathom.

This was the verse of the year for my freshman year of high school, nearly four years ago, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since:

Philippians 4:6-7 ~ “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace, be still, and know that He is God. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). Here’s to the next step.

Published by Annabelle Healy

Annabelle Healy is 17 and loves to write fantasy novels mostly because high school AP classes and homecoming dances are too stressful. Her novels have received multiple awards including a gold medal from the national Scholastic Art and Writing competitions, placing her beside award alumni such as Stephen King and Truman Capote. She is currently publishing her debut fantasy novel, Far Below Human Eyes with Morgan James Publishing.

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