I bought this little notebook as a gift to myself about three or four years ago. After watching a certain movie (which I shall allow to remain a mystery for man-card preservation purposes), I developed the urge to begin journaling.
And of course, just any old notebook wouldn’t do. I needed a notebook worthy of the task. I needed something classy, something enviable, something… hipster, I guess. And the best I could tell, that meant I needed some type of Moleskine. So that’s what I got.
It was a simple and relatively inexpensive notebook, just mat black with my college’s logo pressed into the cover. But it had that essential, humble quality antiquity could not escape: it was made of paper. No glass, no keyboard, no circuitboard – just pages. Blank pages that had to be altered by the pen and pencil. It was worthy of the task.
So, on October 14, 2014, I altered the first page of my new Moleskine notebook. In that first entry, I talked about how I had previously thought of journaling as a waste of time, but was experiencing a change of heart (once again, the precise cause of this change of heart shall remain a mystery). I related how I was starting to believe that I might actually benefit from writing my thoughts down and attempting to analyze them from a different perspective.
And if I do say so myself, that’s a pretty solid thought. I still believe that writing down thoughts, forcing them to line up in an orderly fashion like they used to make us do in elementary school, and trying to take stock of them is a worthy endeavor. If I didn’t, then you probably wouldn’t be reading a blog post on The Meek Seat right now. So, I feel like that first entry was a good first entry. But what I really want to draw attention to is the third entry in that ol’ Moleskine. Allow me to begin with some context.
In 2014, I had a dream – not the kind that you wake up from, the kind that keeps you awake. I wanted to be what virtually everyone who has ever listened to (and enjoyed) rap music has wanted to be: the person speaking on the other side of the mic. And by the fall of 2014, I had been trying to inch my way into the rap industry for roughly two years.
Considering the time and devotion it takes to become a successful artist, that’s not very long. But it felt long. And in this third entry of my journal, I expressed some of the inner struggles with which I was dealing.
In an attempt to save you from a lengthy tune played by the worlds smallest violin, I won’t share everything I wrote in that entry. But let me just say that I was working through some genuine struggles. And no matter how small they were in view of the big picture, which I can now see, at the time they were sincere. I asked my small group of listeners in one of my later lyrics, “you ever had a dream that you felt like you could reach, but every time you turn there’s a haunting disbelief?” But what my audience could not see in that brief lyric was that I didn’t just want to reach my music goals. I didn’t want to just “make it.” In fact, that was one of the main problems. I felt like I was “making” it, like I was fabricating it, and that if I did finally succeed it would have been something that was contrived and not genuine. What I really wanted was to have been made – created – to be “it.” But my career in the music industry was beginning to feel forced, and I didn’t quite know how to process this.
Now, if you go all the way down to the final sentence in that entry, you find a real jewel. In that last sentence, it says, and I quote,
“Maybe one day twenty-three year old label-signed Chris will read this and smile because he didn’t give up and never stopped working.”
*brief pause for dramatic affect*
Well 20-year-old Chris, here we are. This is 23-year-old Chris. Or should I say, this is 23-year-old, non-label-signed Chris, and I just read what you wrote. I’m not smiling.
Just kidding. I am smiling, and in fact, I’m actually laughing. But it’s not because I didn’t give up, never stopped working, and am now signed to a label, as you had hoped. It’s because I know what you were thinking. I know what you were doing. You were giving your best effort to be able to predict the future. But, to no one’s surprise (not even your 23 year old self), you fell short. It seems that you’re just not the prophet you hoped you’d be.
And here’s why I believe that’s true. It seems that you thought your hard work could solidify the future you desired for yourself. You thought that your determination and grit were unilaterally related to your future. Yeah, if you just “worked hard enough” and “never gave up,” then surely you’d be living your dream by 23.
But I think I’ve discovered something in the three years since you penned that third entry.
Self-will, self-determination, or any other type of self-whatever will not secure the future you desire for yourself. They alone do not determine what you will become or what you will do. I know this is hard to hear, but my experiences in skateboarding, music, school, and life in general have taught me this. You cannot force your way into whatever you believe your future should be. And I can’t believe I’m just now thinking to tell you this. You have to get the green light.
God has to give the green light. The Scriptures say that He rules the cosmos, commands the sea, and is able to direct the hearts of kings like a stream in His hand. So here’s a simple question: is your self-will stronger than the ocean or your hard work mightier than the labors of the cosmos? No? Then how shall you escape the will of Him who commands both with a simple word? He says, “Stay,” and they stay. He says, “Go,” and they go. I believe it is the same with the realization of your hopes and dreams. They will not come to fruition unless God gives the signal.
But I want you to know something else. I believe He also has control over those hopes and dreams before they enter into your mind. I imagine the hope to be in the music industry was beside Him, saying, “let me go, he will listen to me.” And in His wisdom He responded, “Go.” I imagine the same for your dream to be a professional skateboarder, and for every other dream or hope you’ve had. In the perfect moment and at the perfect time in your life, He told them, “Go to him,” and they went to you. So I don’t want you to be all absorbed with regret or confusion or disappointment. If He, in His good will, decides to call to some of them and say, “depart from him, unfulfilled,” remember that His wisdom is unsearchable, and His purposes are good.
As we grow older, I think it is inevitable that, for most of us, many of the hopes and dreams we’ve had as young people will depart from us, unfulfilled. But I believe that there is a sovereign God who loves His children and is able even to use disappointment for their good.
What do you think? Am I giving good advice to my 20-year-old self? Drop your opinion in the comments section below!