Blog by Dr Stephanie Iaquinto
Worst. Summer. Ever.
It was 1992 and I was preparing for the longest, dullest, loneliest summer of my life. Staying in the college dorms in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had once seemed like a good idea. I could keep my job and save some money, and I wouldn’t have to pack up all my things and clear out of my dorm.
Boy, was I wrong.
I hadn’t counted on a couple of things. For one, most of my friends headed home for the summer, leaving me without anyone to hang out with. My one friend who lived in an off-campus apartment had graduated, so I no longer enjoyed the same pool access that had been this beach-loving Floridian’s saving grace in the landlocked Midwest.
To add insult to injury, I wasn’t even allowed to stay in my own dorm. I hadn’t realized that any students without the good sense to go home for the summer were sardined into a couple of floors in a single building to save on expenses. Hello, new roomie.
I was separated from everything that shaped my identity: my friends, my classes, my busy schedule, my dorm room, and my family. My summer was looking bleak, with seemingly endless stretches of empty days ahead. I longed for the fall, when I could finish my degree and get on with my life.
It was in the midst of a self-indulgent pity party, though, that I had a revelation. I could either “whine-and-pine” – you know, whine about my terrible circumstances and pine for Whatever Comes Next – or I could adopt a better perspective. I knew what God thought about grumbling, and I didn’t want to be lost in the barren wilderness longer than necessary.
Thankfully, I learned some lessons that summer that I believe are helpful whether you’re in the middle of the worst – or even the best – summer of your life.
You see, for most of us, summers have a way of throwing us off our mission. Throughout the rest of the year, we’ve got plenty to keep us on track: routines, schedules, and identifiable goals. But when those lazy, hazy days roll around, we become disoriented. We lose our drive. We put our goals on the back burner until it’s time to get serious again in the fall.
But if we can stay focused on our mission, summer can be an integral season for moving forward into God’s plan for our lives. Just remember the following:
- Your mental closet needs frequent and thorough tidying.
You may not realize it, but by the time summer rolls around, your brain is filled with more clutter than your grandmother’s attic. Every lecture, every book, every article, and every video you’ve digested in the last year is swimming around up there in a soupy mix.
Some of that information is valuable and should be a permanent fixture in your thought process. Ponder those ideas. Connect them to other ideas you know to be true. Consider where they lead.
Other ideas are questionable. So question them. This is a great time to parse through new ideas and see how well they hold up when exposed to the light of the Truth of the gospel.
Some ideas are just nonsense. Ditch them and don’t look back.
Clean out those mental closets, because…
- Your mission doesn’t stop when the semester ends.
Summer can be a great time to step back from classes and activities, but it isn’t a break from the calling God has placed on your life.
It’s tempting to equate our mission with whatever formal program of study we’re enrolled in, or ministry team we’ve joined, or organization that’s just hired us. So in times of transition, we start to feel mission-less.
But that’s when we need to take our education and training into our own hands. Read the book your favorite professor recommended. Investigate that career possibility that piqued your interest. Start your application to grad school.
Take the extra time you’ve been given to advance even more aggressively toward the goals God has placed in your heart.
During my “awful” summer, I decided to get a jump-start on studying for my law school entrance exams. I checked out a stack of practice tests from the library and dedicated two hours each day to answering questions. My investment paid off a few months later, and I was glad I’d used my time more productively than by watching Beverly Hills 90210 reruns.
With all the options available today – thank you, Khan Academy, Ted talks, and Coursera – there’s a custom education at your fingertips. So take advantage.
Because your mission is so much bigger than just your degree….
- Your identity isn’t dependent on your grades, good or bad.
It also isn’t dependent on your memberships, your internships, your scholarships, or anything other than who you are in Christ Jesus. I’m not saying that grades and other academic achievements aren’t important, but they’re evidence of other things, including a good work ethic.
You know what else is evidence of good work ethic? Picking yourself up after an epic failure and moving forward. So if that describes your past school year, don’t spend the summer beating yourself up. Instead, reflect on your mistakes honestly (Romans 12:3), ask the Lord for wisdom to not repeat them (James 1:5), and recommit your studies to Him (Colossians 3:23).
By the way, the same truth applies to you, Ms. Four-point-O. You are not your achievements. Celebrate them, sure, but never let your successes lead you to rely on your own competence more than you rely on God.
By the time the fall of 1992 arrived, I’d realized that my terrible summer had actually been time well spent. I’d learned new skills, and I’d had time to pray and find peace about the next step in my life. I’d even found that the new roommate I hadn’t wanted had actually been placed there by God to share some much-needed wisdom.
So if you think that this summer is just some downtime before you can resume your real mission, think again. It could be the perfect time to take that mission to the next level.