I feel like we are plagued by this question too often. It comes in different forms, but the meaning is the same.
You are single. Are you dating anyone?
You are dating. When are you going to get married?
You get married. When are you having children?
You have a child. Are you going to have more?
And my current what’s next question.
You stay at home and your kids are all going to be in school soon. What are you going to do then?
What’s next? It’s a never-ending question.
I understand the premise of the question. I think the intentions behind the question are good. It is natural to wonder what someone will be doing next.
I know that I regularly ask people this question in one form or another. It is very common in our society to ask someone these things. To wonder what’s next.
But here is the problem with what’s next…..
I believe it has the potential to make people feel like where they are in their lives is inadequate. Like they should be doing more. Striving for more. Like where they are is not enough. Like what is next in their life will somehow complete them.
But the truth is…..
Some people remain single for their entire lives.
Some people do not have children.
Some people have one child and not any more.
And all of this is Ok.
When we are constantly thinking about what is next, then it may become hard to see the beauty in where we are. Having goals, plans and dreaming of the future that we desire are not bad things in and of themselves. But if not careful, these desires can consume us. They can rob us from the joys of our present circumstances. If we are always longing for what is ahead then we can be blind to what surrounds us now.
We may get stuck in the thought pattern that goes something like this, “when ______ happens, then I will feel content.”
In other words….
When I get my promotion, then I will be happy in my job.
When I have kids, then my life will feel complete.
Or, the what’s next could be rooted in the next material possession.
When I get a new car, then I will be happy.
When I remodel my kitchen, then I will feel good about my house.
And so on and so forth.
If we put too much hope in the next phase of life, then we can have overly high expectations of what that season may hold. We may end up disappointed to find out that we are not completed by our material possessions, our next promotion, our spouse, our children, our grandchildren, or our retirement. We may be discouraged when we discover that these things we have dreamed of actually take a great deal of work and commitment. Sometimes these things may make life more complicated.
I have been thinking of my what’s next lately and have decided it’s Ok not to know. I don’t know what I am going to do when the kids are all in school. I don’t know where I will work. Or when I will work. Or if I will work at all…..outside of the home that is…..
I don’t know the answer to my what’s next and that is Ok. I will take it one day at a time and see what happens. If I try to figure it out too far in advance, it normally causes me a lot of anxiety and doesn’t end up the way I thought it would anyways.
My hope is to embrace where I am. Now. Knowing that my circumstances do not define me. God defines me. His love for me defines me. He loves me now. Just where I am.
So, what’s next? Make dinner. Play with the kids. Lay on the couch and read a book. Go to bed and wake up to a fresh cup of coffee, loaded with entirely too much creamer.
That’s what’s next.