“The Best”

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29: 11-13

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We walked into the administration building about forty minutes early. Unlike the college tour we took on a whim the year before, we were serious about the possibilities of this school. The people were nice, the tour was informative. Then we visited the School of Music. The school we really came to see.

Bam! In our face was a truth that I’m sure they did not mean to convey. It wasn’t that we weren’t expecting to work hard; we were ready for that. It wasn’t a fear of try-outs, excuse me, “auditions.” Auditions we expected.

It was when the administrator said, “This is “the best” school in the country for music.” We heard that phrase over and over. If we did not hear it before entering, they were going to make sure we knew it before we left. In my ear, I heard something more than confidence. I heard arrogance. I heard, “We are about the school, not the student.”

We were told how college would go from classes to practice expectations. How my son needed to focus on one instrument and how if he followed their criteria he would become one of “the best” performers of that instrument by the time he graduated. (I have no doubt that would be true.) Then they went on to share their elite successes and how their graduates played in all the orchestra pits in the nation and many around the world. (Which is not my son’s dream, so we wanted to run at that point.)

We were impressed, but not satisfied. Obviously, this university (& probably major) was not our fit.   “The best”, or at least, “their best” was not “the best” for my son.

Then my son took a bold move and started to ask a question about some of the things he was interested in studying in addition to the instrument of choice. We were so proud. They were not. And shut down the conversation quickly. There were no deviations from the plan. It was, “the best.”

We left. My son was confused. His discouragement hung heavy on his shoulders. The drive to the next university was filled with either silence or strong questions formed out of resentment and frustration. Where we had hoped to find clarity and pathways, we found fog and road blocks.

The week before this trip I had been wrestling with Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Oddly enough, my husband had been wrestling with Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” That afternoon though, we turned to the verse sandwiched in between for solace. Jeremiah 29:12 says, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”

So we stopped and prayed. We asked for direction. We learned, my son’s courage to ask questions was part of the process. We learned, his dream may not fit perfectly within a college degree plan. We learned the first college was not the only pathway and that it was a good thing to mark off our list. And then we prayed and left my son’s future in our creator’s hands.

The next morning pulling into the parking lot of the next university was different. We endured the exhaustive campus tour, enjoyed the very beautiful campus, heard many things we knew my son would and wouldn’t be interested in. Then something amazing happened.

The faculty member, who had invited my son to come take a look at their school, paired up beside him. Took him aside for a lesson on one of his instruments, listened to his questions, and introduced him to another faculty member that might be able to help him formulate a plan for classes that would lead him on the pathway of preparation for his dream.

I don’t know if my son will attend the second university or not. We still have three more colleges to visit. However, the smile on my son’s face as we left was a lot more satisfying than the frown the day before.

Going back to Jeremiah. As I read through the verses in order, I find so much comfort. Before we even pray God has good plans for us. He just asks us to call upon Him, to seek Him and then we will find Him.

So what exactly did we learn from this process?

First, we learned Jeremiah speaks of a different “best” than what we were originally seeking. Staying true to course of who we are requires us to seek God for direction. Not just seeking schools with “the best” programs.

Secondly, we learned the first college obviously wasn’t right for us; however, my son learned to step up and ask questions there. When the questions weren’t received well, we learned more about that college than the entire information session on their school.

Thirdly, the second college taught us practical steps we needed to take to collect information. They also modeled an attitude of service that mattered more to us probably more than a perfect degree program.

Lastly, we learned, “the best” is subjective. We want “the best” that Jeremiah teaches. The ultimate best for my son.

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29: 11-13

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